Content is content.

8.6.14
Been reading through my travel journal lately, seeking inspiration, and I hadn't read much of it since I first wrote it. This is a bit I never posted from April 2012, just getting back to Los Angeles from Spain after three months out: 

I arrive in LA and pick up my baggage. I get a cab to the hotel. Its beautiful and very convenient but the room is small and definitely not worth the $400 a night or whatever it is. Can walk to restaurants.

Everything is non-smoking and there is lots of noise and lots of rudeness and tons of skin. I failed to notice, although this is one thing I always forget and then am reminded of when I get back here, that shorts are not common in the places I have been to in Europe.

So all the tits and short-shorts is a shock.

I decide, for some reason, to extend the trip by pretending I am French and speaking with an accent. It works beautifully. I convince everyone and it keeps the homeless from continuing to ask for money.

First night I get home I go to Misfits with Robyn. We have bacon wrapped dates and I have a steak. It’s good to see her again although I have not slept in 24 hours and it is effectively 4 in the morning for me.

I get to bed at 12 thinking Im going to lay down some good sleep but I am up at 5:30 with no hope for return. I give in, shower, and walk. Its very beautiful at this time of morning, there are no people and it is very quiet.

I've gotten very good at wandering around. I have also gotten very good with not considering how I will fill my days. I didn’t nap all day. I just wandered and sat and watched and listened and began designing my tattoo.

I also realized I don’t feel the need to drink as much.

So day two is a Sunday and I have nothing to do again. I go to a French restaurant called Le Pain Quotidiene, or something similar. This is when I begin to act like I am French, but not really on purpose. It's because I am a little used to speaking English like a French person. And immediately it is assumed that I am French, and it seems I am treated nicely due to this fact, so I go with it.

I go with it at the restaurant, and then at the tobacco shop where I lie my ass off and tell him I live in France and then again at Nordstroms, and I'm kind of liking this.

I don’t do much on this day but sit in the park and draw and watch people and all of a sudden it is dusk and I go to BOA steakhouse to have a real American steak, which I have been craving.

It's very windy and by the time I get there my eyes are watering so I ask the girls to seat me in the single-guy-crying section and they laugh and sit me in a row of couches which actually turns out to be 3 guys, all at their own table, eating. So there is a single guy section after all.

And the guy next to me says, in an Australian accent because he is Australian “If you fancy a steak, I recommend the strip.” So I tell the girl that I will have what he is having and she asks me if I want broccolini as well and I say yes. Fine, fine, just give me what he has. And Im feeling very good, but also a bit like I'm drugged and maybe this is not real because again, it is 5 in the morning to my body.

But this is the meat: the guy is 32 and three days ago he got up from his desk in Canberra, Australia and decided he was not going to sit there anymore and he drove to the airport with his passport and his suit and his phone and got the first flight to the US.

He had never left Australia before. And he was having a “how-the-fuck-did-I-get-here-moment,” just like I have had a hundred times.

How I come to bump into these people over and over is a mystery to me, but fascinating. Really fascinating. 

We talk throughout dinner and at the end of it we shake hands. I walk myself through the third-street promenade and there is a dark haired kid, maybe 15, playing the electric guitar with speakers blaring Jimmy Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. And I can't keep my eyes of off him. He is amazing. I stay for four songs and throw a 5 dollar bill in his plastic jar. His dad is there, with a hoodie on, taking a video.

And what is more amazing is watching all the people who walk right through his set-up without even turning a head, as in between and over the cord leading from his guitar to the speakers, like if you were to walk behind a counter at a convenience store and pay no mind to the fact. 

I sleep maybe 7 hours. Up and to the shop to get the tires plugged. I thought two of them were flat but only one needs plugging apparently. Guy doesn’t charge me, just says tip my guy. I give him $20.

In the parking garage there is a girl in pink pants, a Mexican girl, and she has two friends with her. She is looking at me as I park and I smile at her and she walks up and asks me if she can have a picture with my car. And here again, I act like I am a foreigner.

I say "of course,” and then I pull the car back out of the spot so they can get a good picture and she gets in the driver side and her friend gets in the passenger side and the guy takes some pictures. Then the pink pants girl gets out and wants a picture with me in front of the car.

I don’t know why any of this is happening. Perhaps she thinks I am a celebrity or something, but she wraps her arms around me and the guy takes a photo. She says thank you and that it was really nice of me to do that and I park the car again.

Interesting start.

I go back to the same French place and have bread and jam and a soft boiled egg. I watch people for two hours.

I go to Venice and I get a massage from Reggie, who is heavily tattooed. We don’t talk much for the first 20 minutes but then the floodgates open. He studied philosophy and massage and the University of Ottawa, he has gone to Paris but only Paris, but loves to travel. He surfs and plays in a band with the same guy he has played with since he was 10. They played at the Whiskey A-Go-Go last week and that was a dream come true.
Again, another like-minded-soul, and at this point in LA, I may have lost count.

I get a bite to eat and drive to Dani’s to give her the chocolates I bought her in Spain as a thank you for watching over my car. She reports that she is deciding to leave and go for a trip as well, although points out that it has nothing to do with me but it is because she feels she is having a mid-life crisis. She says she wants it to be spontaneous, but can’t stop planning. 

I tell her is easier once you get used to it. I may have said before, the step off the plane is the hardest, the free-fall is brainless.

And then in the afternoon, I take a scotch down to the sitting area outside the hotel and a homeless guy approaches and asks if I have a cigarette. I hear him but pretend I don’t. He gets closer and asks again.

I say “cigarette,” and he says “yeah do you have one?” and I say “bien sur,” and he sits down directly next to me and I light it for him. Normally, this would be very off-putting, just me and this homeless guy sitting together smoking.

He asks me if I have any food. I tell him my English is not very good. He makes a gesture like eating and says “food” and I say that I don’t have any and that, again, my English is not very good.

He says “I understand man, I get it.” And then we sit there in the sun and I am very calm and I do my very best not to change my energy output and after about two minutes, at a moment where I have my eyes closed and am feeling the sun on my face he says “just relaxing huh,” and I look at him quizzically and he says “relaxing?” and I say “yes, yes, its easy to relax,” and he nods his head and takes a drag and puts his head back as well.

And then we sit there in silence and we both watch the people go by and when he is finished he wishes me a good day and I do the same and that part is over.

I try and nap, but it won't come.

So I go to a restaurant on the corner and order something small and a glass of Tempranillo. Steak and asparagus marinated in miso. It’s good. The manager comes to ask if I like the way the steak was prepared and I don't say anything because I am chewing, but I nod my head. 

After that, he leaves me alone, as I am content to be. 

Annie, Are You OK?


I’m feeling very angsty. There is a cloud over me and I can’t outsmart it. I know the cloud is dumb and incapable of strategy but it keeps finding me, no matter how many hours I spend on my bike. It finds me even in my dreams.

Sometimes I give up the care that it is there, because I know that clouds will sometimes form, despite my protests, and that they will travel with the wind, and that the wind is always consistent in its pressing, pushing the cloud as it pushes me, but this wind is in my face, not so hard that I can’t breath, but enough to be annoying. I wish it would go away. But this wind is committed to something, and I can’t make sense of its persistence. I tell it that it is just a cloud, that no one cares about it, that no one likes it, that all of us would prefer that it not block out the sun, but it just dangles there and makes no offer to its intention.

I mentioned it to my friend the other day during a phone call. He too, was confounded by its resolve. I wonder what it could want with you, he asked?  Maybe my luck has begun to run thin, I suggest, maybe the winds no longer find me in their favor, maybe a lesson is to be learned. But what lesson? What have I done wrong? Everything I have done benefited the other first, and I have never put myself in the front of the line. How does this cloud see it fit to rain on me and never let me dry, not for a second?

Let us examine this, he says. A cloud is temporary, for one. And so is the sun, one could argue, burning the way it does. And a cloud can blot out the sun, yes it can, but only until the sun dries it up. The sun will always beat a cloud.

Yes, that helps. Thank you, I say. But I long for the sun to take control a little quicker, and the winds to change more rapidly, because I feel that not only is my head wet, and my feet tired from walking against it, but my heart too, is giving up. Sometimes I feel like my heart is simply tacking and gibing against a sea that hides a rogue wave destined to take it deep down to its cold sand, and bury it beneath the tow.


No, he says. The cloud, the wind, the sea, they are there to remind you of YOU! 

The Slow Leak


Well, that girlfriend thing is over. Deep down, there was something fundamentally incompatible about us, to paraphrase someone else who worded it better than I could have. I was accused of walking away too easily, but I'm pretty certain that when a book ends, there aren't extra chapters lying around for me to find. And sequels almost never deliver.

There was a slow drip from the roof that I ignored but knew would bring the whole house crashing down someday. Afterwards, I looked at the carnage and didn't wonder "What the fuck?" I looked at it and I thought "Oh, so that was what that drip was all about."

Sometimes you recognize the drip before the house has even been built. Keep building? I say yes. Enjoy the sun while you can; maybe it won't rain for a while yet.

But if you had asked me in the beginning if I thought it could last forever, I would have told you that I thought it might. I always hope it might. The first question is "what happened?" I broke up with her, I think.  She broke up with me, I think. Maybe I broke up with her a little a couple of weeks in advance, and then she broke up with me a little the week before the break-up-actual, and then we broke up semi-consensually. Those are the murky details that form the fact.

I want love, and love was not what I was finding. That can't possibly make me the bad guy. If the relationship turns out to be a carnation, it doesn't suddenly blossom into a rose by gritting your teeth.

SO,

I live in the northeast, and I obviously did not take my normal trip out of the country this year, as I probably should have.  I chose the worst winter to stay in Dodge, and now it's March, which means it's almost April, and I should probably just sit this out.

So I read to pass the days. Madame Bovary was an indulgent surprise. However, (and I get that no love will ever satisfy her, and therefore even her romance with death was an agonizing failure), but I think suicide as a closing is cheap, both in reality and fiction. I had no sympathy for the character.

I'll never get through anything by Dostoevsky, but I'll keep trying. Crime novels go down like Cheez-It's. Bukowski, Carver, Eggers, and Baudelaire salt the quick reads that don't necessarily leave me staring at the wall once they're over, but have so many twists that I'm compelled to chase them. "Book Thief" was great, and "The Fault In Our Stars" was a winner, although it's unlikely that any teenager in this generation is that articulate and clever.

I'm possibly repeating myself, but riding my bike, whenever possible, has been my net. I'll keep doing that until there is more sunshine than "oyster colored suns," and I'll parlay my ongoing bet that compatibility, fundamental compatibility, awaits me.

And I'll fish some more.



Little trip up North


I started a wee little trip a couple of weeks ago. On a whim again, and not much planned. I figured to start in Lake Placid and climb Whiteface, which a friend told me I should climb, so I did. From there, I went east to Middlebury (VT) for no particular reason, then North Conway (NH) to ride the Kancamagus Highway, then to Portland (ME) and then Portsmouth (NH) and now I’m in Gloucester (MA). And I’m sick. For the first time in about three years I am sick and it’s fucking horrible. I think I overdid it.

Wait, why such a short trip? You usually go longer and the locales are…uh, cooler.

I know, it’s because I have a girlfriend now. She is very real and I like this girl very much and she makes me not want to be away from her for very long. I’ve always said that traveling for me was only going to be satisfying unless it wasn’t. And I’ll tell you that this trip has been kind of flavorless outside of the biking bits.  Now I would love for her to travel with me, but she’s not been on a bike (although she is a voracious runner and yoga-er) so good seeds there and we will see. If she picks it up, great, if not, great.

She knows me pretty well and she knows how susceptible I am to the cabin fever. If I can get her on a bike and she loves it, and she quits her job, then we are all back in business.

If not, still great. I can ride my bike anywhere and if I have someone to come home to who understands and appreciates me; then trust me, that beats being alone in anyplace in this world you could dream up.


What do you do when you aren’t biking?

I prepare to bike and I repair from the bike. Planning rides in towns you have never been to can be exhausting because you don’t want it to suck and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. My bikes are always dirty and in need of a clean and lube. My kits are always dirty and in need of a wash.

Then I have to suss out the next location. Which, oversimplified, involves looking at a map and just…winging it. I look for mountains or national parks and I use the googleman and strava and other cycling sites. This can take hours.

Then, once I get a location, I have to scope out hotels which have to be kind of near the good biking and at least a favorable to very good rating on tripadvisor. I can’t stay in a shit hotel. I’m 41.

Sometimes, there are no hotels available near the spot I spent hours picking out, so I start again. And I have another beer.

Then, I have to figure out where to eat, which can be a real pain in the ass. Sometimes I have a hankering for something and it can’t be had. So I’ll phone it in and hit a chain restaurant, if there are any. I don’t feel pretty about it, but sometimes I just gotta.

Do you get lonely or is all just rockstar moments?

Traveling alone is rough duty. One the one hand I eat, sleep, fart, and wake when and where I want. On the other I have no one to talk to outside of the bartender, the hotel staff, and some friends by text. Sometimes homeless dudes and old drunks, like the old drunks who start at 10 in the AM, can nail a solid conversation down like you would not believe.

The biking parts, well, I prefer them alone anyway, so yes, those are mostly rockstar moments, although I would jam on having someone with me sometimes.

I skipped to the end, so can you sum it all up for me?

Do what you want until what you wanted isn’t what you want anymore and then do what you want again. Repeat as needed.

Top of Whiteface Mountain, New York

Lighthouse near Portland, ME

Typical hotel room with shit drying everywhere, in Portsmouth NH

About 20 miles south of Portland, ME

Make your rights more right.


What a glorious day; maybe the finest of this summer.  I had hoped only to comment on how glorious it was, and that's still the plan, but with one caveat; I learned immediately after dismounting my bike this evening that my college housemate had passed away in his sleep. That's all the details I could glean from my friends. Yesterday he was picking blueberries with his family and then he just went to sleep and did not see the morning. 

Can't be. Crazy. Unfair. Too soon. Not him. I don't understand. Once past those thoughts, my own sense of vulnerability backhands me hard, and I take good account of how it makes me feel, because I want to remember it. Because I know that this feeling passes with time, and I want to remind myself, over and over again, of the certain emotions it puts onto the field.

I want to tell the people I love that I love them. I want to tell the people that I didn't communicate well enough why I lacked the skill, to apologize for inadequate awareness, or for not caring at the depth they needed. I want to reach out to anyone and everyone. Essentially, I want to right all the wrongs, and I want to make the rights more right.

Maybe it was coincidence that today I felt every moment on my bike with just a little extra seasoning. The air was sweet and the roads were perfect and the traffic was nowhere. I had no pain, not anywhere. I felt above myself, disconnected but in no way disassociated. I listen to music on my rides, but today I put the buds away.

I floated. Cyclists will joke and tell you that they could not feel their legs, that they just sent out power on every revolution, that they never felt as if an effort was made. I will confirm; that is no joke, although it is not everyday either. It is a form of mojo that, sometimes mysteriously and frustratingly, ebbs and flows. Sometimes it never ebbs.

I'm not so spiritual to believe that something propelled me today, but I do believe that there was good reason that my eyes were wider than normal.

You really can just.... not wake up. That's not me trying to sell you, and that's not me calling on cliches to make a point. There is always a reason that you just cease to be, of course, but there is nothing anymore that could convince me that it isn't just a matter of drawing the short straw.

So, with this truth, how do you navigate? Ideally, you remember that this time is the time to enjoy. The intrinsic value of life is that you possess it. That'll clam up the nihilists for good. (For more on this: here)

Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

In loving memory of Christopher Choi. 





Shut Up Brain

Location: West Chester, PA (Home)
I know that you know that cycling is therapy. I somehow slipped into a bit of a coma the last couple of days, maybe it's just re-adjustment and maybe I'm tired or maybe I just have to realize that every once in a while my testosterone levels slip and I have my man-flow. For whatever reason, I did not feel like waking up the last few days. The therapy is failing me.

I dip into many wells of inspiration when I feel like this. I start a couple of books, see how far they get me. I throw some useless shit in the garbage. I go to bed early or I stay up late scouting a possible long term stay in Italy for the next trip. I watch movies, but they disappoint, in general. I don't read movie reviews because I find most people who write reviews to be pretty specifically pissed off about something other than the movie, and I don't like being guided by stupid, angry people. So picking a movie is lottery fare.

I watch some bike races. None of it stirs me as it usually does. I'll make myself a nice meal and pour a heavy glass of wine, knowing full well the glass is useless, it's just the middleman between me and that bottle. And all three of us know that bottle is getting kicked.

I got a new job this week, down in DC. I still don't know if I want it. It's a conundrum I find myself in often; I want to be creative and involved, but I don't want to be obliged. I made this commitment to myself three years ago to chase only those joyful pursuits, and to straight-arm anything else from getting into my bubble.

I'm just stressed, a bit, I guess. The truth is I deal most excellently with stress, in fact, I strive in it's face. I am efficient, calculating, and viciously determined in my battle with it, but if I see it is a fight I cant possibly win, I haul ass the other direction. That's called self-preservation.

I climbed onto my bike this afternoon, despite not wanting to do so. Historically, I get over myself at around mile 20 and all is good again. The natural pain-killers kick in right about at that point, and even fat old guys flipping me the bird from pickups (or Miata's, or work Vans) still elicit a wave and a fuck-you smile.

But today, at exactly mile 32.6, as I was cresting a hill, I began to cry. It would not be my first time shedding a tear on my bike, but this one came from nowhere in particular. It ended as quickly and as fiercely as it started. It was maybe 10 seconds long, but it made me stop peddling. And then it made me laugh, because "what the fuck was that?"

And the next 28 miles? I felt light as a feather.

Pain is normal on a bike. Euphoria is common but not consistent. I never know what kind of day I am going to have, despite putting almost the same things into my body on a daily basis. Today, some nugget of sadness needed to get purged, and though I didn't know it, it was only properly fermented until that exact moment in my ride. I was helpless, really.

These are the things that keep me getting back on my bike, day after day, despite rain or wind or cold, because I know that without my bike and me on top of it, melding with it, right there completely and attached to everything around me, that there is no other more effective way of getting my body to stage a completely welcome coup d'etat on my brain.

All hail the new King!




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