Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's New?

I used to play drums for hours when I was a a kid. Back then the radio played everything from The Ohio Players to Queen on one station. The rotation came around about every two hours and I could get through most of it before my Mom would come in, flip the light switch and let me know she'd had enough. It was a great way to get a musical education, but mostly I learned how to fix drums that were designed for kids that gave up two months after Christmas. My kit was held together with paper clips, and twisted coat hangers. It was a demented mixture of colors and companies, none of them good. I knew I wasn't going to get anything new, and if I wanted to play I was going to have to McGyver my way through.

My mother used to save quarters. I don't know where they came from but she saved a lot of them. She used them for clothes, rainy days, and once a trip to San Fransisco. She also loved the horses and quarters went to the track as well. For years I thought that's why they were called "quarter horses". She was a child of the depression and had learned to make do. She was a thrift store professional and had radar for bargains. She would take things to the counter and point out bad hems, stains and other irregularities, and then she would look at the clerk doe eyed and say what a shame it was that it was ruined. The price would magically drop and she would never let on to me or anyone that a supreme lesson in bargaining had been executed by a master.

I remember going to her in a fit of frustration, having finally had been defeated, by the pile of debris I hit with sticks. The bass drum head had broken and the rip had defied all my best efforts as well as four bucks worth of duct tape. She took me to the music store and I went to work on her to get as much as I could. I brought a pair of sticks, a snare head and the new head for the bass drum, sheepishly up to the counter. The damage was forty eight bucks plus tax. Out came the quarters, some dollars and the check book. I could see by the look on her face it was a lot more than she expected. She tried to bargain with the sales guy but, she was not in her element. Music store guys have heard all, and they have sympathy for no one. She mumbled something religious, forked over the money, and I got the heads I needed. The result was pure bliss. I was able to over look the tin cymbals, broken pedals, and the floor tom, that was really a bass drum resting on a trash can. It was thirty two years ago, but I assure you I can remember everything about that day, her face, the salesman and the glorious sound of those new heads.

It's been a very long time since I had to scrape for anything. If I need something, I just go get it. To this day though, I get a very funny feeling in my stomach when I buy heads. Some part of that day, my Mother, and where I came from, walk with me still.

I was alone, in my kitchen gripped by sadness for no good reason, when I realized it was her birthday. I shook my head and laughed as I put it all together. It has been six years since we lost her. I was on stage watching socialburn play to a sold out house at Floyd's. My phone rang and I just knew she had gone. She had been so proud of all the success we were having and used to call me to let me know our position on the Palm Beach radio chart. She used to stop people we didn't know and tell them I was her seventh son. It drove me nuts. Until the day she died, she called me her: "little kid". She was a pistol, in every sense of the word.

I make a habit of complaining about my insane family, but we made do. We learned from a master.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Dancing In The Dark

What do you fear most? Losing your spouse, your job, your life? My biggest fear has always been becoming one of them: The Normals. Nine to five in a numb case with no escape. Working, mowing the grass, going to church, conservative clothing, thinking and the slanted perpetual smile of the damned. A world of safe moves, station wagons, potato salad and small talk. Don't offend anyone. Don't say what you think. Network your way into the club man.

It's my private rebellion. My crusade against no one. I need little things, every so often, to keep me left of center. Surfing in El Salvador, a conversation with a homeless guy, a bike race, blah, blah, blah.
The time is right for riding in the dark. It takes a few weeks for the skin to grow back, for the perception to adjust. The first few rides are an exercise in twitch. The boring trail is transformed into something that demands every cells concentration. Every sound, every root, is amplified to the tenth power. There are no strollers, no dog walkers, no stink eyed hikers. The Normals are home monitoring the crock pots, and the evening news. They are moisturising. They are on their third cocktail, hoping to escape the judgement of a sideways glance. They are trying to remember the last time they had sex. They are dancing chickens with no heads. They don't know they are dead.

I know everyone does it. I know we are not making a summit attempt after two o'clock. We aren't on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan. Lets not over inflate our adventures. That would be UNETHICAL!

People in cars look at me like I am weird. My neighbors shake their heads. My heart beats a little harder on the fast section of Cadillac. I force myself to let go of the brakes. I am not one of them. I can live with that.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

You Turn The Screws

Nice ride today. Thirty five miles, twenty of which I was repeating the phrase "I hate Tyler" over and over like a character from a Stephen King novel. If you are unfortunate enough to be on a ride with him, that does not include technical single track, you will have to suffer the indignity of watching him ride away from you. Because he is a BASTARD!!!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Even Now

I am a recovering musician. I was addicted from age nine. I suffered all the highs and lows of any addict. I have learned to manage my cravings, but every so often I wander into an alley to find my old cronies. We bend the boot, hit the bag, and for a while we live in a set list thinking of nothing more than the next song. The place where minutes become hours, the groove is oxygen and melody is the sun. It is a dangerous exercise for one with such a tenuous grip on the real world. It is much easier when the gigs suck, or when I am out of practice. Then the decisions I have made are easier to swallow. The voices are quelled and my internal monologue verifies what I feared the most: that I wasn't good enough. Sadly I have been experiencing a new wave of interest in playing. I have been practicing. I have been doing more gigs. My playing is on point. The beast is awake and it is hungry.

I did a gig a couple weeks ago and my bike crew showed up to see the old man play. To them I have always been comic relief, the old slow dude they adopted nine years ago. To see their reaction and feel the support was awesome and bitter. The questions come and after all these years the answers elude. The stage is such a great place to visit, but for me it is an old love, obsessive and toxic. The passion is explosive, the fire burns, but in the morning I am still a Montague, and music the Capulet. The night is a stolen season and in the light of day, there are jobs to work and bills to pay. I have to crush my soul back into a little box and march into Monday.

It's one thing to get applause and to see your friends smile, quite another to hear questions from musicians you admire. A friend recently asked why I didn't pursue a gig as a drummer for a touring artist. The "WHY" list begins to run, but somewhere in the back of a place you never shine the flashlight, there's a part of you that wonders if you could. Would the marriage survive? Would the kids do okay with out you at the swim meets and half time shows? Would they do as well in school? It's all bubble gum for the brain because the gig does not exist. I thought for years (conditioned by organized religion) that I never found the light because I was a bad person. Today I discovered that an old acquaintance is flourishing in the world I so wished to attain. He is not as talented as I am, and he is a colossal ass to boot. The comparison game is one of my old favorites. It's all about the scoreboard and the back story is never told. It sure makes for a fun "why not me" session when you are crawling to five O'clock. The dreams and regrets walk hand in hand.

I have said it before, and here it comes again: thank (Deity of choice) that group of guys that never saw me play, took me in and let me ride bikes with them. They saved my life. Thank (Deity of choice) for the bicycle. Thank (Deity of choice) for the woods and the canopy roads we ride. Let us all pray that the voices are forever quelled by the increase in miles. Every now and then I may get to hit the drums and sing a few songs. It's nice to go to the circus as long as you don't come home wearing clown paint.

The bike is in the garage, this I know.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Lay It On The Line


I hate bikes. Racing is stupid. Tom Brown is a dumb ass trail. It's been raining. I am not going to race.


The new fall T.V. season started. No ones yells at me, or drops me, when I am on the sofa. The world is full of people that do not race mountain bikes. Cookies are good. I was planning on changing my riding style to: Bird watching cyclist.


What am I five years old? I don't have to race because of my crew. The world needs peace and love; not a bunch of middle aged dorks in Lycra, spreading testosterone in the forest.


Wow the trail is REALLY getting ridden in well. I am glad I am not racing. This is great for the trail though. I am railing turns. There's way too many people at Tom Brown.....I could beat that guy. Is he in my class? What's with the stink eye Bro?..... Yo! On your left!


I am riding a little too hard, you know, in case I decide to race. I need to taper a little more. I probably won't race. I need to save money. I am glad the shop had the new shoes, tires, Ti pedals, XTR drive train, and carbon bars I wanted. It's not my fault they sent me a new credit card. I may need a divorce attorney.


I always stay up till four in the morning cleaning my bike, laying out my kit, and checking my cleats. I can't find my lucky socks....WHERE THE F*#$ ARE MY LUCKY, oh...... here they are. I am so glad I am not racing. It makes people soooo neurotic. Losers. I'll just take the tires off one more time, to check for thorns. Did that rotor just squeak? WHAT THE F^&*?


It's so weird, I have a check right here, filled out to Gone Riding....What a coinky dink. I have to poop RIGHT NOW! I have stopped talking and smiling at anyone who might be in my class, including close friends and their family members. I probably shouldn't have told that guys kid I was going to kick his Dads ass. Oh well, all is fair in love and.....OH SHIT! My class is next! I am going to kill anything that is not in a Bike Chain jersey. Why is this guy crowding me? Home boy better chill! I am feeling the whole shot! 5,4,3,2,1.....AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Sky Is Crying

Tuesday, I was going to hit Munson. Big Jim convinced me to ride Tom Brown and Cadillac in prep for the impending "Race of Death" that visits our trails annually like a plague. Like a good soldier, I obliged. I rode from my house (because putting your bike on a car is just silly) and headed to Jim's place of work. As I rolled up, the faucet turned on and I heard that music they play when someone loses on a game show. Jim made a series of grumbling noises and I said:
"Well, I'll see you in the back lot" and I rode off to meet Tyler, who was sitting in the rain, waiting for us. We waited about a minute before I recieved the text from Jim:
"I'm Out."
You see Jim had just had his bike massaged by Big Worm. His bike was dialed, styled, and profiled. Jim likes things to be clean. Jim likes things to be in order. Jim doesn't do rain. Jim was f*#^+ng riding, if I had to kill him and "Weekend At Bernie's" his ass around the trail system. I have a vague memory of cussing into a phone and applying copious amounts of guilt. Low and behold Jim cracked, rolled up, changed, and we headed for the woods. You could have parked a truck on Jim's lower lip. What followed was one of the most miserable, mud ridden, roll outs I can remember. Within ten minutes we were covered head to toe in brown water and trail filth. You could hear metal grinding off our drive trains, cables struggling to move, and chain tolerances going to hell. Somewhere in Japan, a Shimano wept. In a scant ten minutes, all Worms work was decimated, and his efforts to make Jim's bike sing, were crushed, like the dreams of Seminole football fans.

Amazingly, we ended up on the Greenway, and salvaged a pretty good ride. Tyler's steroids kicked in, after we dropped him a few times (not because we were fast, but because he doesn't have gears.....schmuck!). He attacked every hill and robbed me of my delusions of fitness. He even gave me a smirk as I rolled up (four days after they arrived) to the Greenway trail head. The ride was good, and we logged about twenty miles, while the more sensible cyclists sat in their homes, coddled, and well fed, watching The Antique Road Show (Pansies!).

Wednesday, I was riddled with guilt. I called Big Jim to say I was sorry about his muddy bike and invited him for an early ride from my house. This would give me the opportunity to wash his Ellsworth, dump lube on it, floss his calipers and wipe down his frame (insert homophobic jokes here..). Off we went to do the big east loop, in the shining October sun and all was grand...until nearly the end of our ride, when we reached Fern. The clouds pissed rain down on us, in another bitter insult to our ambitions.

Jim has had a perfect bike twice this week, and twice it has been soaked and sullied. My mind wandered to Buddhist Monks making sand paintings for days, denying themselves food, water and sleep. When they are done with the masterpiece, they open the doors facing north, south, east, and west, surrendering to the wind. It is not an exercise in futility, it is a lesson that we must strive for perfection and accept that all our efforts to attain perfection, are in vane. It is in the striving that we live life to the fullest. I know! That was good right? I can hear the sound of one hand clapping all over the Internet.

In all the pictures Jim is smiling, which means he must pick up the burning pot, thereby tattooing himself and leave the temple forever....wait.... did I just mix and match eastern religions?


Monday, October 5, 2009

If 6 Was 9

Big highs, big lows. That's what I would say if I had to sum up my life in one sentence. I have had periods of brief stability, but mostly I am in transition to one extreme or the other. Self inflicted? Certainly. Exaggerated? Probably. Perception is reality and we all live in a construct of what we think we feel, need, see, hear, and more than anything: who we are.

Today I am well. I had the best week of cycling since March. I feel fit. I do not morn the past and my melancholy has subsided. As the pedals turn, so to do the wheels. The healing increases with the miles. This is not my default setting, so I see different colors than normal. Things smell vibrant. I hear the forest. I am thankful to be allowed to wander the trails.

I ride with caution and with a sense of gratitude. You must believe me when I say: I never thought I would make it back, I just hoped to improve. For the first time in a very long time, I have a hopeful view. My world changed over night. My boys are both in high school, and are not the people they were last summer. They surprise me everyday in appearance and in attitude. All our investments in them have started to bear fruit. All is flowing and the trick is not to disrupt the momentum. Do the dishes, get the kids, clean the kitchen, throw in some laundry, rake a pattern in the rocks, revel in the task, and not the outcome. The moment is here, the moment is gone, equal parts of nothing and something, all in balance for now. The miles are the reward, not the burden.

I know, I know, go with me on this one. It usually comes up tails.


Friday, October 2, 2009


I am riding
I am healthy
I am happy
I am