Friday, September 8, 2017

Watts' 13 Precepts for Mega-Happiness

See how happy?

1. Ride a heavy steel bike:

(Just so we all remember that this is still a "cycling blog" (such as it was) )

Preferably something made of 4130 chromoly. Sure... it can be nicer, if that's within your means. Columbus tubing. Tru Temper. Reynolds 853. It can be handmade in the USofA by Waterford. By Weaver. By Moth Attack. By Rick Hunter. By your friend who fancies himself a "builder."
Or it can be made... wherever. Taiwan. By Surly. By All City. By Ritchey.
It can be an old Bridgestone. A Univega. A Torpado.
Whatever it is, just ride it.

Ride it... all the fucking time.

Who gives a shit if some carbon frame is 2 to 3 pounds lighter?  Look at yourself. Seriously... look at yourself. You're concerned about two fucking pounds of frame weight? Are... are you shitting me? 
Look, it doesn't matter. Because regardless of where you go in your life... one day you'll realize... that no bike you ever owned rode as well as that heavy ass steel frame.
You'll realize... that no bike was ever that much fun to ride.
You'll realize... that you were never stronger than when you rode the shit out of that bike.
You'll realize... that you were never happier than when you were lost as fuck on that bike.
You'll realize... that no steel frame ever told you you were "full of shit." Ever bailed on you. Ever told you "there was nothing else to talk about." Ever slept with some 30-banana-a-day gobbling idiot after telling you not to come over one night because she "wasn't feeling well."

And you'll wish... you had it back.

2) Ride farther than you think you can:

Because you can. I know... it's a long way. But it really isn't. I mean...yeah, it is. And it's going to hurt. Maybe a lot. Probably. But you've got this shit. I mean it.
You... Me... We've all just all been conditioned to forget that.
No, you might not be the fastest. Who gives a shit? Let the morons duke that shit out up front. You worry about you.
Pack food. Bring money. Bring a phone.
But trust me... you can ride that far. You can. I don't care if you're staring down the barrel of 10, 20, 50, 100, or 300 miles. You've got this shit.
It might not be pretty. It rarely is. I mean... come on... admit it: even at your prettiest, you're a nightmare.
Take breaks. Look around. Look inside. Talk to yourself. Cry.

And when you're done... after you've willingly put yourself through something harder than you thought possible... you'll know. Know that beyond what you just went through, there's real suffering. Suffering the likes of which you will hopefully never know. Real fucking shit... and not just some bike-ride you did one day.
But you'll have gotten a glimpse into a larger world. And hopefully you'll have grown as a result of that. Realized how small you and your stupid bullshit problems are in the scheme of it all.

I mean... unless you're fucking terrible.

3) Travel when you're broke as fuck:

When you can barely make rent. When the power is in danger of being shut off. When you can barely maintain.
When all of your peers are buying boats and renting beach houses in the Outer Banks... and you just got the first NSF notice of the month.

Travel when you're supposed to be putting money in an IRA so that when you're old you can finally see the Rhine River... on a Viking cruise with other old people.
No. Fuck that. Travel now. Because chances are... you're going to die long before you make that happen. Cancer from second hand smoke your parents immersed you in. From the asbestos siding of the house you grew up in. The siding you used to carve your initials (along with the word "fart") into with a knife. From years of not wearing sunscreen. From that cellphone you keep in your pocket... next to your testicles... your uterus.
From some dipshit who was too busy typing "lol" at some other dipshit's rape joke to pay attention while driving... and plowed into you with their Wrangler (complete with a "It's a Jeep thing. You wouldn't understand" sticker.)
And imagine how fucking stupid you're going to feel having put off going to Iceland because "the timing wasn't right."

Flights are expensive, I know. So is one week's worth of shitty, overpriced lattes...
One week of eating $12 white-person bulgogi tacos every day for lunch.

So is a car payment.

If those are the things you want... then by all means, keep on keeping on.
But, to quote the ever-challenging Dead Prez:

"Would you rather have a Lexus or justice?
A dream, or some substance?
A Beamer, a necklace, or freedom?"

Which reminds me....

4) Don't Buy a Car:

See this thing?

I fucking hate it.
Yeah, it gets good gas mileage. Yeah, it has little to no mechanical issues. Yeah, when it has the outdoorsy roof rack on it, it can "Fit" two adults, two kids, three dogs, two bikes, and a cargo box that carries all the gear you need.
But... I just hate it.

Truth be known, I hate all cars.
And not just because they represent our innate laziness as a species. Or how they keep killing us. Or how fuckboys yell "Hey baby girl" at me as they drive by when I'm on a run.
But because they just. Fucking. Bore me.
When I was a kid and we'd play with our Hotwheels... and my friends would all covet the Lamborghinis. The Land Rovers. The Porches. The Mustangs. I could give two shits. As far as I could discern, those cars looked almost exactly like my Mom's beige GM. You know... the one with the seats that faced backward.
The only toy cars I wanted to play with had jet engines or shark fins. Lazer cannons mounted to the top.

I bought the Fit post divorce...When I had this idea that I needed to "adult." To "get my shit together." That somehow, this practical but stylish yuppie hatchback would help galvanize that. Like buying a standing desk at Ikea. Once I had that, I'd have everything I needed to effectively buckle down and work!
This is what adults do, right? Make practical decisions? In impractical ways?

But this car...  it just isn't me.
In fact, it's about one-thousand percent less me than the Ford Windstar I had before that. The one I still have, parked behind the shop. The one I bought when I couldn't find the car I was actively lusting after: A Toyota Previa.
Talk about sexy.

"Oh hey, ladies."
The point is... I'm no happier having bought this stupid fucking adult car than I was before.

Don't buy a car.
If you're going to buy anything, buy a bike. Or a van. One you can live in when you intentionally use your house as firewood.
Or just keep driving that stained ass, hubcap missing Toyota Corolla into the fucking ground.

5) Don't get married:

You see them everywhere. Fighting about everything. About who forgot the boppy at the neighborhood cookout. About who doesn't know how to work the clutch in the car. About who doesn't know what size shoes their  child wears. About who packed the passports in the wrong pocket of the bag. About who doesn't know how to fold fitted sheets. About who bought the wrong brand of Stevia at Whole Foods. About who's had to deal with their own offspring "all day" and how it's "your turn!"
About anything....

Fucking. Spouses.

Maybe... they really do love each other. In a way.
But they certainly don't like each other. Not anymore. To be quite honest... I'm pretty sure they fucking hate each other.

Marriage... changes everything. Whether you believe it or not. I don't know why. It just does.
Maybe... it creates some sense of ownership. Of entitlement. Makes people into other people.
In any case, it definitely creates resentment. Either from feeling "trapped"... or from feeling let down.

I'm not saying not to fall in love. And I'm not saying not to commit to loving a person with everything you have. I'm just saying... that marriage, as an institution... no longer has any relevance. (Unless you've been denied the privilege all your life... and I get that.)
In too many ways... I feel like it's just a copout. A way of forcing an issue. Creating a reason to stay together...
Instead of just fucking doing it.

Turning best friends... into spouses. Which is a toxic fucking thing to be.

Also... if this is you?
In any way....
Whether it's physical... verbal... or mental...
Fuck you.
Fuck you so fucking hard.

7) Have an Affair:

There are two kinds of people in the world:
Those who've had an affair...

And those who haven't... yet.

Whether because they haven't met that person... or whether because the opportunity hasn't been afforded to them.

The sanctimonious fuckers who judge everyone who has? The ones who stand on some high horse of how they'd never do that. How they'd "never go outside of a marriage that way"...
They're full of shit. I'm not calling them liars...  I'm calling them FUCKING liars.

Like homophobic republicans with their male prostitutes.

I assure you... you would. You already have. In too many ways to count. Review your vows... and think about it. Really think about it. All the times you've treated the other person like shit. All the times you've belittled them. Lorded something over them. Manipulated them. Failed to be the person you promised to be.

Crashing into someone else? Yeah... it sucks to be on the wrong end of that. (And I've been on all of them.)
But it's just a part of the equation. You don't get to turn it into more.

I won't pretend to know where you are in your own relationship. Whether everything is golden. Or if it's on the rivet...
But, if the stars aligned such... you would.

And one day... maybe you'll feel dead inside. And you'll hit a breaking point.
Look for ways to sabotage everything.

Or... you'll meet someone. When you don't mean to. Someone amazing. And something will click.
Or for the first time in too long... you'll feel... alive. Dare I even say... happy.

As you should.

And maybe... it will end. You'll realize that's not what you want. Not who you are. You'll realize you just crossed a line you never want to cross again. And you'll end it. Stop responding. Never look back.

But maybe it won't. Maybe it will snap you out of something. Some fugue. And you'll realize... that you want more.

You'll get caught, by the way. (You always do, in case you're wondering.) And you'll hurt people. And likely... you'll get hurt.
But there are two kinds of people in an affair:
Those who don't understand how you could hurt them like this...
And those who want to know what they did wrong. What they did to push you away...
Which one are you?

In any case,  I assure you... you will never know true happiness until you're on your knees in the middle of the street... scrubbing the spray paint that spells your name, along with the words "cheat" and "liar" off the asphalt.

Talk about bliss!

8) Get Divorced:

No happy marriage ever ended in divorce.

And if you're unhappy in the marriage... it's worth it.
It is.

If your soon to be ex isn't a shitty, manipulative person who can't see past their own ass...
...the kind who threatens custody for no reason other than to hurt you
...the kind who threatens to make it difficult for no reason other than some misplaced sense of entitlement
... the kind who is so blinded by their own myopic pain that they can't see anyone else's, much less yours... much less their own children's...'s worth it.

And even then.

I'm quite fortunate, in that my ex and I are, in many ways, the poster-children for how it can be. How it should be. When it could have gone very differently.
That's not to say it wasn't hard. Or that we weren't both angry. Or sad. Or that we didn't say hurtful things. We did.
But ultimately... we both saw past that. Saw our kid. Saw ourselves. Saw each other.
And realized how it could be. How it should be.

You don't go hang out with your ex-inlaws down in the Florida Keys for Spring Break?

My ex and I are very different. To see us now, you would probably never think that we were once married, much less a couple.  We were young. Both bookish. Both introverted in our own ways. I will forever love her for forcing Jane Austen on me. For introducing me to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. For getting me to truly appreciate Dickens.
We laughed. Danced. Had fun.
But as we grew, our paths... our interests... our expectations of life... just diverged. Quite a bit.
It took too long to realize that.

Post divorce, there's no bitterness. There's still scar tissue, I suppose. But who among you doesn't have scars. Scars... are sexy. heh.
We don't pick at those wounds.

Meanwhile, I watch other people... how they can't even manage the most base level of civility during their split...
How they totally shut down communicating...
How they use their kids as shields and ammunition against each other...
How they try to take things they don't deserve...
How regardless of how badly the other might have fucked up, can't see how badly they've fucked up. Or how badly they're fucking up right now...

Acting like Fucking. Spouses.

Yeah, you'll lose friends. But if you think about it, you'll probably realize that they kind of sucked anyway.

My one word of caution: if you have children, just try to get divorced somewhere you actually want to be. Because otherwise, you might find yourself living in salle d'attente: The waiting room.

9) Reject god: 

It's beyond bizarre to me that in spite of how much we've advanced as a species... how much we've learned about the natural world... about the nature of reality... exponentially our understanding and ideas about the world have grown...
our ideas about "god" have not.

I mean... they have... but very slowly. And within a very narrow confine.
As if we're terrified of letting go of certain notions about who we are in the universe. As if... we might find out... that we're really quite insignificant. And that it means nothing.

Our ideas about god... are still very much mired in a time when we were completely, and dare I say, malignantly ignorant about the world and how it worked. When we knew nothing about matter. About atoms. When we had no understanding of illness or germs. Of geology. Biology.
So mired...that in order for us to move forward, I can't help but feel like those ideas...  have to just die. Like a controlled burn. One that eliminates all of the strangling brush.
Or maybe a flood. (Wouldn't that be something?)
Then... we can revisit. See how we feel. See if those stories still resonate. See what our heads tell us when they aren't bogged down in the detritus of thousands of years of historically inaccurate bullshit.
So many of us grew up tangled in those webs. In the same way we grew up tangled in the various prejudices of our families. Our social circles.
But once you break free... your world grows. Exponentially.

I hate the fucking word, but religion... needs to be "unlearned."


10) Oral sex. Lots of it:

This should be a no brainer.
Oral sex... is about giving and receiving. In ways that other sex isn't.
Intercourse, regardless of position, and regardless as to how much you may "give"... is always about taking.
Oral sex is about paying attention... to someone else.

Do that.
Do that a lot.

(Are you doing it? I'm watching.)

11) Talk shit about people:

What's that Eleanor Roosevelt quote?
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss places; small minds discuss people."
She's right. But she didn't take into account that whatever the fuck people think they are... they are, ultimately, just ideas. Whether your own ideas about them... or their own ideas about you... or our own ideas about us.
Tear those fuckers down. Drag them through the mud.
Just understand... that when you do... when you're talking shit about the sycophantic fan-boys... about tyrants and visionless coat-tail riders... about smug little fuckers who can't see past their own duck butts...'re just talking about yourself. About some facet of you.
That everyone is just a mirror. And that when you see something inside of them that you despise, it's a reflection of something inside you that you hate.
Whether it's pettiness. Jealousy. A need to be liked. Selfishness. Insincerity.
How they treat people.
It's all you.

Unless you're really so fucking vapid that you can't see that.

12) Have an adult enemy:

It's strange. To know that someone out there hates you. Not only do they not like you.... But they legitimately hate you. Maybe even... as much as you hate them. Or maybe even... as much as you hate you.
To know that someone sees red when your name comes up in conversation. When they see it in a magazine.
That they intentionally avoid looking at you. That when they do... it's daggers. To know that their friends, who have no context with you at all, save someone else's beef... keep tabs on what you're doing.
To know that to someone else... you represent everything fucked up about this world.

Don't shrug that shit off.

Think about it. Really think about it. Think about what they see when they look at you. About why.
And think about whether or not that's who you want to be. Whether or not that's who you are.

13) Try to die:

I can't promise that your head will be any clearer. Or that you'll have any more of an idea how to cope with life. Or that you won't always struggle with that feeling... of wanting to disappear.
But you'll have some perspective.
That's something.

Super Secret Bonus Precept:
Tell people you love them. All the time.

Late addition:
Some of you may have noticed that I omitted #6. It wasn't intentional. Last minute editing gone awry, followed by the absence of proofreading. What? It's a fucking blog... not a thesis. 
In any case... here you go. In case you really cared.

6) Punch yourself in the face:

Or, as I like to think of it... hit the reset button. 
Those times when you feel everything starting to slide out of focus. When you can't get your head right. When you find yourself running down a hallway of slamming doors. When you feel the lightning start to arc in your skull. 
Pull your fist back... and let go. 
Maybe avoid your nose. It's messy. Lots of blood. The high potential for breakage. 
Avoid your temple. It's delicate. The intended "reset" might become a "shutdown." 
Mouth is ok. Just try not to knock a tooth out. 
Cheek and eye socket are preferable. Just be ready to explain your shiner to people. Be ready to tell a girl that you'd prefer she not touch your tender face for a bit. In the same way... you'd prefer she not touch your wrists. 
You know?

And there you have it. #6. Totally worth it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Be a Blight Unto Yourself

Why I Fucking Hate Gravel:  A Love Story.

"Why... are you making this about you?" she said.

Wherever I was... lost in my own head... that got my attention. I'd heard it before.  

I'd been passively watching her. Unavoidable, honestly, considering how many times she'd walked by my campsite. I was sitting in front of my open van... sipping coffee and poking at my laptop. Trying unsuccessfully to get the stupid words out. She'd flashed me a pretty, if curious, smile on her first pass. Looked back briefly. I'd smiled back. Cocked my head. What... was that?
The next time she passed, she was on the phone. No smile this time. Not even a look. She was somewhere far away. Somewhere she very obviously didn't want to be. Agitated sighs. Hushed talking. The words "you're being so unfair" spilling out as she passed within feet of me. 

"Why... are you making this about you?" 

Ah, I thought... l'amour. Who hasn't been there?

I tried to feel sympathy toward whoever was at the other end of that line. Couldn't muster it. 
I mean... maybe... he was great. A genuinely good guy. Devoted. Loving. Trying to be "fair." Trying to understand.
Perplexed and frustrated by the mercurial temperament of this pretty, leggy girl... but still hopelessly in love with her. 

Maybe... he said things like, "Hey... I'm here. Don't push me away." Maybe he asked her what she needed. Maybe... he told her he loved her. Asked her... to let him in.


Or... maybe not. Maybe he hadn't said those things in a long time.
Maybe... lately... he just told her that she was ungrateful. Maybe he threatened. Berated. Seethed. Couldn't see past his own hurt.  


Regardless of who he was... I'd chosen my side. The girl... with her curious smile. 
With no context, I'd have come to her defense. Fought whoever was on the other end of that line. Told him to love her the way she deserved. Whatever that even meant. 

The next time by, her eyes were wet.


"Why are you making this about you?" she whispered into the phone... loud enough for me to hear.

She wasn't talking to me... but I was listening. And I heard.

I think... that on some level... no one can help it. Everything we do and feel is filtered through ourselves. Our very understanding of the world, in too many ways, is just a flawed and subjective take on whatever our limited senses and brainpower can process. In so many ways... we can't NOT make it about us. 
Us... is the only context we have.

Which is how I knew... full well... that despite what she was saying and feeling...
... the girl... was really just making it about her.  

And that was ok.

I owe some of you an apology.
(Likely many apologies. Regarding many things.)
But focusing on the topic at hand...

If you tend to tune in here with even the slightest semblance of regularity, then, you are:

A) Fucking insane


B) Familiar with the concept of disappointment

Nonetheless...  I'm sorry. As ever.

I don't know how people do it. Churn out content. Most days... lately, especially... I struggle to put one foot in front of the other. My mantra for the next... however the fuck long... is "fake it till you make it."
Make what, you ask?
The fuck if I know.

Most of you know what's up by now. That there are really two people responsible for content on this blog:


and Super-Fucking-Emo Watts...

Be sure to check out my band:
As I Lay Falling on Fire with Airplane Stars

(emoification by @mustacheransome)
To the rest of you... welcome to the shitshow.

A Body:
I've thrown my phone approximately one million times. Across rooms... against walls... into bushes... All the normal reasons: Shitty news... crossed wires... someone making it about them asking me why I'm making it about me...
But while I've wanted to, too many times to count... I've only thrown my laptop twice. Which, I know... is still a lot. Because... laptop.
I forget the details of the first time. Maybe the words weren't coming out... or maybe someone was telling me to "live the uncertainty"... or some shit equally as dumb.
(It survived, by the way. A small crack in the outer casing being the only visible damage.)
The second time? I'd just read something. And I admit... as silly and arbitrary as it may sound... or of all the myriad other legitimate reasons for one to do so... it made me lose my fucking shit.

I'd just read a... I don't even know what to call it... story? And... it equated participating in a gravel event... with "courage."

Fucking. Courage.

I might have roared. This hoarse bark bursting out of me. The laptop slammed shut and tossed like a frisbee to the corner of the room. Like a naughty little fucker who needed a timeout.
(Or... like a dunce. Because... throwing a laptop... Fuck. I was lucky.)

Whatever fucked headspace I was already in... that word just put me over the edge. "Courage." Because fuck me dead, I can't help but feel like this... is what is wrong with cycling right now. With everything... in too many ways.
This wholesale shitshow of self-congratulation. Celebrating our mediocrity and pretending it means more than it does. Means something it doesn't. Confusing selfish endeavor with accomplishment.

If you know me, even a little... you know that I love riding gravel roads. Fucking love it. 
And if you know me, even a little... you know that I love endurance events. Fucking love them. They're how I cope with this world. How I maintain the small and slight grip I have on what is real.
(That and a crippling reliance on alcohol. Judge me all you want... but YOU try being me sometime. Let me know how that goes for you.)
And if you know me, even a little... you know that I like to talk about all of the things we wrestle with while we participate in them. Personal demons. Dark places. Voices that say we're not strong enough to finish. Voices that tell us that the world would be better off if we killed ourselves. And while I'll be the first to admit that dealing with those feelings and overcoming them; pushing past that pain and making it through another event... another day... another year... is difficult in its own way... and exceptional in its own right...
... there is nothing courageous about able bodied white people paying money to ride expensive bikes a long way on gravel roads in somewhat adverse conditions.

There just isn't.

Never forget.

All of the ways we may fall apart during endurance rides... all of the ways we may push ourselves... all of the ways we might potentially grow... use the word courage in relation to this kind of self-serving bullshit... is to misappropriate the term in the most poisonous of ways. In much the same way the word "truth" was misappropriated by evangelical christians to mean approximately fuck all.
There is no courage in what we do... however much it may hurt... and however much it may mean to us. There is just privilege.

Why... are we making this about us?

This... is what happened to Ironman. (Among other things.) How the challenge of a 2.2 mile open water swim followed by a 100+ mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run... became farce. Became the poster-child for tone-deaf entitlement. Became a way for smug and potentially shitty people to be even less humble about being mediocre.

Gravel road racing... is dangerously close to falling into the same trap... if it hasn't already.

I mean... look at this shit. Look at it! It longs for death!

As if you needed any more proof that "gravel™" is the next triathlon.
"Wait... isn't this your bike, Watts?"

We do many things on the bike... Most of them positive in their own way.
We suffer. We work through problems. We learn about ourselves. We find our limits.
We might even inspire others to find their own limits. I hope so.
But with notable and obvious exceptions; living with physical or mental limitations... discrimination... poverty... real adversity...
...we absolutely do not manifest "courage" when we toe the line at an event.

Life... is short. Absurd and painful. Do things you want to do. Go places you want to go. Chase things you want to chase. Tell people you love them. You get to do selfish shit. You need to. Fucking sign up for every event you can this year. Fall apart at Land Run. Implode at Bootlegger. Get washed away at Epic. Kill all the nerves in your hands at TransIowa. Get drunk with friends at Shenandoah. Think the world would be a better place if you killed yourself at Kanza.
Just... don't imbue it with a nobility of purpose that it doesn't have. Don't let humility get twisted into hubris.

We all love our belt buckles. Our pint glasses. Our defacto scars. Proof that we've suffered through something transformative.

But the woman with the double mastectomy... the one who hides her all too real scars. Hides all her fear of dying behind a shirt and a scarf. Hides all her pain behind necessity. The overwhelming need to stay alive to care for her children.
No sense of accomplishment. No finish line. No pride. No recognition.
Just desperation.

That's fucking courage.

Not some ride we did.

Why... are we making this about us?

Eventually, she just never came back. The conversation was over, and she was done walking. Done talking. Done pacing around the campground. As I pulled on my kit and prepped my bike, I absently wondered where she'd gone. Where she was from. Where she was going. What that was even about. I was piecing together my own story based on tiny, one-sided windows into the narrative. On body language and my own experience. For all I knew... I was dead wrong.
I was going to get lost today. Hopefully find some dirt roads and try to untangle the gnarled threads of my head. Selfishly spend the day trying to find something in remote places.
Probably... just make it about me.

And that was ok.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dirty Kanza: Party Crasher

I said it out loud.
"I hope you fucking die."

I looked up from the chunky expanse of road, out over the prairie... a brilliant rolling green... and felt a tightening in my chest. 
I said it again.

"I hope... that you fucking die."

I heard a rider approaching. As he passed,  I noted his gears, with only a modicum of relief... and made a half-ass effort to get on his wheel. If not to simply try and use his draft for a bit... then at least to motivate myself to pedal harder. If only for a moment or two. To try... just a little. I held on to him for what might have been 15 seconds... and let go.

I was empty. 

Not like last year, mind you. 
Where I ran out of water and couldn't keep any food down. Where I was so devoid of calories and nutrition that, had I happened upon one... I'd have drank from a puddle. Or a cow trough. 
Or just milked the fucking cow. 
Where I kept myself going with Cokes and waters scavenged from spectators and their coolers. Stopping at the behest of one couple lounging in their camp-chairs.. Drinking two of their beers in quick succession before rolling on. 

No... I had plenty to eat and drink this time. I just... didn't have anything inside me. 

Like I said... empty.

And my perspective had... shifted.
In that way it sometimes does. 
Often, actually.
Sometimes, I sit back and watch it. Enjoy the show. 
Sometimes... I just deal. 
Sometimes... not so much. 

This was one of those times.

Have you ever looked at something familiar... and seen something foreign? 
Listened to your language... and heard nonsense. 
Seen time... just fall apart in front of you?


Then nevermind. 
But if you have... then maybe you know what I mean. At least a little.

See... there's a reason... I don't really do drugs. Because I'm already fucked up 1000% of the time.

I reached back... touched the bulge in my back-left pocket. Handed to me by another rider. Wrapped in tin-foil. Occasionally giving off a dank but strangely pleasant odor. 
I considered eating it right then. 
Thought better of it. Maybe just a nibble. Determine its potency. 
You never know with this kind of thing. 
It might make me put my head down and go. Count pedal strokes. Get into a zone.
It might snap me back into me. Instead of watching myself from a distance. Perplexed by how alien and strange I seemed.

Or... it might make me get off the bike, disrobe, and press my face into the gravel.

I told you. My chemistry... is not your chemistry. 

I lifted my head and looked for the sun. Hoping it would peak out and burn off this torpor in me. 

"I hope... that you fucking die." I said.

And yeah... by "you"... I meant "me."

My dark place had officially found me.

I wonder if Jason the dog has dark places. 

Who am I kidding? Jason is darkness incarnate.

The Way:
Sitting at the bar in Charleston, WV, the man a few stools down looked over.
"Did I hear you say you're from North Carolina? Whereabouts?"
He'd obviously overheard me talking with the bartender. Answering questions about why I was passing through. "Bike racing." "Girls." "Etc."
He was about my age. Streaks of gray in his long beard. Tattooed and slender.
I told him where I was currently anchored, and he gave a slow nod. A shadow of a smile.
"I saw the Squirrel Nut Zippers play in Greensboro back in '95."
"Ha! So did I. I guarantee we were at the same show."
"Yeah... I was dating this girl. She went to..."
"Katie," I said. Just... knowing.
His eyes got wide. And we exchanged looks. That look of knowing that you shared something with the same girl. Likely at right about the same time.
We both started laughing hysterically and got up and gave each other hugs.
More beers were ordered, and we got to it... swapping stories about all the things we had in common... from pretty Katie and her red dreadlocks... to angry calls from other people's husbands... to growing up punk rock in the south (trying to, at least)... to NoMeansNo.
Turns out... he was as much of a superfan as I was. Which is an odd thing to find anywhere... much less West Virginia.
That night... I camped in his driveway and hung out with him and his wife... watching NoMeansno play a live show in his living room.

The next morning, I headed off to find some trails... my legs feeling surprisingly good after five days of not trying at TSE.

Hey guys... we... won?

(Look for my upcoming epic on Bikerumor. TSE: Singlespeeds not Dead... It just Deserves to Die.)
After wet-wiping clean, I made haste to rendevouz with la Dorita, who'd caught a ride to WV with some Greensboro folks headed out to Kanza.
From there we made surprisingly good time crossing the states... winding up in Lawrence, Kansas on Thursday afternoon. We drank beers at Freestate... ate nachos and weighed our options. We could drive another hour and change to Emporia... drink at Mulready's and see the Reverend Horton Heat. Or we could stay here the night. Camp at Clinton Lake. Take much needed showers. Avoid drama. We opted to stay. 
As much as I may have wanted to be... there were reasons not to spend too much time in Emporia. Some dramatic and complicated. Some simple and pedestrian.
It seemed impolitic to crash a party... that I wasn't wanted at. And as much "fuck you, I do what I want" swagger as I may seem to have (erroneously, mind you)... I don't have to be in everyone's face.
So we looked at the stars instead.

A word or two about Dorrit.

You totally just peed all over the floor of the van... didn't you?
She's fucking crazy.

Hmmm... I guess that's three words.

She was also my crew. And she nailed it.

We finally rolled into Emporia Friday evening. In time to meet a motley assortment of friends for dinner. My plan to sup at Radius was quickly hijacked, and we walked a half mile to a Mexican restaurant down the road.

Ask Chad about "El Diablo" sometime. 
More milk, please.

Last year... I'd stayed up until 2am before Kanza. Drinking at Mulready's. At Radius. At wherever. This desperate frenzy inside. Ready to fight and scrap. Struggle and bleed. 
And I did. All those things.
This year... everything was quiet. Myself included. There was no one to fight. And I had no fight in me. I felt... extinguished. I'd felt this way since November. Like my fire had gone out.  Whatever that means.

Standing at the bar and ordering a beer, I heard my name.
"I read that guy's blog."
"Now why..." I said, grabbing our beers and walking toward a circle of strangers, "would anyone do something that stupid."
Turns out they weren't strangers. They were friends. We just hadn't met in person yet.

Who is le Pubes?
At this point, I'd been drinking steadily since we arrived... missing the "six after nine" pre-race drinking quota... but definitely hitting the "nine after six" mark. And coming damn close to "12 after 12." But I was also pounding water.
Last year, when I finished Kanza... and eventually peed, at around midnight... it had been the color of Coke. A dark brown that should have prompted a hospital visit, honestly. There might have even been gravel in it. This year it was a light yellow. And the pee-tupperware in the van was getting a solid workout.

The race start was fast. Faster than I wanted. In years past, I'd loved that intensity, and enjoyed taking risks to move my way up to the front. Riding with the lead group for however long I could hang on.

Or at least close to the lead group. 

This year the lead group was a shit-show train of around 100+ riders. And making my way up that train just didn't feel fun. So I backed off.
At a point early on, all of the single speeders wound up together... All of us geared almost exactly the same. Except for Addison Zwada, way off the front, apparently.

A secret about me. I hate racing. I love beating people... when it happens... but I fucking HATE racing people. So when everyone kept putting in little attacks... jumping onto trains of riders... I said, "fuck it." I just couldn't.
I had no drive.
I had no motivation.
I had no fitness.

Yes, I know how stupid that sounds. I mean... I was there, riding 200 miles... so I obviously had some level of fitness. But while last year I had a ton of riding under my belt... This year I didn't. I'd spent the past month sick. Coughing my lungs out. Riding once a week, and occasionally doing a race. Which would just make me sick again. But beyond that... I just didn't have anything inside of me. No fire to fuel the chase.
So I just put my head down and turned the pedals.
Eventually I began passing people. Either shelled from going too hard early on... or waylaid by mechanicals. Thomas Adams and I spent most of the race jockeying back and forth.
He'd crashed brutally last year. Broken jaw. Concussion. Helicoptered out.
He wanted this race... more than anything. And I wanted him to have it.
It was enlivening to see someone driven like that. In stark juxtaposition to my resignedness. When he pulled away just before the final checkpoint... as vexed as I was that I couldn't hang on... I was happy for him.
I had other shit to contend with, presently.

"I hope... that you fucking die."

I hear people talk about their dark places during races. But... I don't know what that means to them.
I don't know... if their dark places are the same as mine.
I suspect not.
There's no "you got this!" pep talk. Because I don't really care if I've "got this!" or not. I just... don't.
Finishing the actual race, physically... is meaningless to me... as the race is simply a backdrop to my unraveling. A place... to fall apart.
My head isn't telling me that I'm not strong enough to finish... or to win.
My head is telling me... to die. That I should disappear. That my very presence is a blight. And that the only way to truly let the people I love in this world be happy... is to vanish from their lives.

That's my battle. Not some fucking bike ride.

People look from afar at something like Kanza and say "I could never do that." But they could. And should. Everyone should. As cloying as it is, there is something to the rally cry of #findyourlimit.
Me? I look at everyone else from afar... and say "How do you do it?" How... do you live happy lives?How do you smile when you feel broken inside? How do you talk down those voices that never stop? The ones that tell you where to cut yourself?

I know it seems... dramatic. Maudlin, maybe. Absurdly so.
I know...
But for me... events like this... are about going into that place... and emerging from them. Letting that dark place wash over me entirely. And hoping that I come of out it.

And if I don't?

Maybe it's for the best.

Unfortunately for everyone, however. I did.
So now I have to come back again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We Are All Made of Scars

While my body may be a narrative of broken skin... a historical latticework of cuts crisscrossing my arms, legs, body and even face...

...I don't scar. 

I just... don't. Not really anyway.

I don't know... 

I used to think I had a mutant healing factor. Or rather... I used to hope I did. Pretend it was some evidence that I was special in the ways that I wanted to be... and less in the ways I was.
But my broken knuckles and the inordinate amount of time I appear to spend being sick seem to prove otherwise. 
Alas... while my body can make a wound disappear in relatively short order... it can't even against some virus brought home from daycare by a kid who came into contact with a kid who came into contact with a kid who knows a kid who sneezed near my kid.

Yeah... in case you're wondering... I'm still sick. 

Fuck. I'm over this shit.

To be fair, however, I do have a few notable scars. And no... they're not the ones you'd think. Those are mercifully shadowy things. More thin lines traced with masking ink.

One is on my left hip... less a cut and more a giant scoop of flesh removed by the ill-advised decision to race Cat 5 road in the rain approximately a century ago. A long, gouging slide across wet asphalt. 
After that race, I requested an upgrade to Cat 4... got it... and immediately retired. 
Because fuck that.

One is the topography of cratered skin on both my temples. A remnant of the kind of soul-crushing teenage acne that makes painfully shy young men hide their faces behind their bangs and write earnest rhyming poetry ("love is like a flame... burning with your name" (kill me)) instead of socializing with their peers.

And the other is on my right shin. A token from the first time I ever raced bikes in Pennsylvania. One hundred and one ill-conceived miles. Rocks and rain. Three stupid, narrow bridges... two of which I successfully traversed (barely)... finally losing both my line and my nerve on the third. A collective gasp from the spectators as I paused... teetered... and fell. Into a creek bed full of PA rocks. 
I was up and moving before I could process what happened. Shrugging off the blood and visible bone. 
I think Wilderness 101 took me 11. 5 hours that year? Stopping at each aid station to change the bloody bandage I had around my shin. To flush out a wound full of grit and mud. A wound that got infected twice upon returning home. That strange heat and flush that comes only from something being wrong.
After my tumble, I was accompanied for the remainder of that race by one of the few close friends I've ever had in my life. 
A person I haven't spoken to in close to six years. 
You know... in case you're wondering how me and close friendships tend to go.  

Tomorrow I drive back to PA for five consecutive days of racing at the Transylvania Epic. 
I've watched from afar for years and talked myself out of it every time. Who knows why. Possibly for good reason?
There's a lot of talk about rocks and breaking butts. I happen to have a healthy fear of both of these things. 
But last year my fomo knew no bounds. And Rich just kept talking about it. So when the opportunity arose, I jumped.

Technically, I'll be there on behalf of BikeRumor. For a forthcoming "piece" about the fallacy of consciousness and all the various coping mechanisms we employ to deal, on the most base level, with our mortality and with the absence of meaning.  
It might also be a little about TSE.

Then, on Tuesday... I bid adieu to my PA mountainbike frenemies and drive west, to Emporia, Kansas... where I will "race" 200 miles of gravel at the Dirty Kanza. 
Yeah... I know. I never wrote anything about last year... even though there was a lot to say.

And instead of doing that now, I'll just post my rejected Yonder Journal Project YV1 submission... as it kind of sort of maybe touches on it. 

Yikes.... amiright?

Anyway... on the way to Emporia, I'll stop somewhere in WV and pick up a girl... some crazy hoodrat who has agreed (nay, demanded) to "crew for me" By which I mean: fill bottles, pour ice water over my head, and shove pickles (gherkins, really) up my butt when I start to cramp. (that's what people do for cramps, right?)

Guess which one she is?

No... I will not have recovered by the time I get to Kanza. 
No... I am in no shape to do much of anything save for fall apart. Again.
No... I suspect this is not my year. Unless whatever meds the doctor gave me yesterday really do knock this shit out.  

And no... I have no idea what I'm fucking doing. Save that I'm chasing things. In whatever flawed ways I can. 

Whether those things give a damn or not.

Regarding scars... I think it's less that I heal... and more that I just pull it all inside. To where all the other scars live.

Which is less about avoiding them. And more about embracing them.
Maybe even cuddling.

Friday, May 12, 2017

PMBAR: The Saddest Day

Forgive me... but for the sake of decorum, we're going to start with a little TMI.

It seems like a relatively new thing... a thing that started happening maybe a year or so ago.... roughly the same time I turned 40...
But I woke up having to take a shit.
And not like... "Hmm, you know? I could kind of sort of maybe start my day off with a bowel movement if I wanted to"
But like... "Oh shit oh fuck oh shit oh shit"
A panicked scrambling...
Tearing myself out of the sheets and fumbling with the van door. Almost leaving my shoes behind, because fuck them if they weren't going to cooperate in my moment of need.
A boxer-brief-only clad sprint to the porta-potties.
The knowledge that this was only episode one.

Then, crisis averted, the slow and completely unmethodical gathering of my things. First and foremost stuffing a small sandwich baggie with toilet paper. And throwing it in "the pile." Whatever else I may need out there, I had a feeling I would need this first.

My cough was still there. And whatever I was hacking up was definitely still green. Damn.
I'd been sick for going on three weeks. Finishing a mid-week century with a tiny scratchy feeling in my throat. That blossoming into full blown "kill me" body aches and general malaise. Undeterred I decided to do the Bootlegger 100 anyway. "What's the worst that can happen?" I thought to myself.
At Bootlegger, I barely managed to defend my 1st place Singlespeed title, with a very near loss to the insanely strong, and very Dutch, fixed gear riding Fish...

 The sore throat became a cough that wouldn't go away. "Oh right... that's what can happen," I thought to myself.
 But... I'd done absolutely nothing for two weeks, and finally felt human again. Just in time to turn myself inside out for PMBAR.

My head hurt. Enough so that I swallowed some Advil.... a thing I never do. Some of it was the lingering sick. And some of it was the amount I'd had to drink the night before. I was at least one novelty size beer up on Rich... and had topped the night off with lonely bourbon in the van... watching Deadpool until I dropped the iPad on my face: the "alarm" telling me that I could finally fall asleep.

Mind you, I didn't feel bad. Nothing like my morning before Kanza last year. (See the most recent issue of Dirt Rag. {and ahem... no, the goal was most definitely not for Stevil and I to emulate each other's styles... Sheesh. Don't neither of us have any clue what Cush is talking about. Who edits the editors? Amiright?})

A little known fact:
I was straight-edge forever. 

And not like... "I don't really have any particular interest in drinking or drugs, so I'll just say, 'No, thank you.'" 

But like... "I will NEVER poison my body OR my mind! I will never lose my focus or my drive. This world will not defeat me! And I will remain True! Til! DEATH!"

Le sigh...

Like... X's on my hands and wearing running shoes to the hardcore show. Like... reading lyric sheets so I could thrust pointed fingers into the sky and know what the fuck I was screaming when the mic was shoved in my face at the Converge show.
("Wow. That's what he's saying? I srsly never would have guessed that.") 
Like... wearing a Tulasi bead choker and pretending like the Srimad Bhagavatam made one fucking bit of sense.

Like... being so uncomfortable in my own skin that I had to embrace something to give me direction and purpose and poise. Trying to convince myself that it was a drum that beat inside me, but always knowing that everything is infinitely more complex and complicated than that, and that all of my posturing about never faltering from some myopic life-style choice was, effectively, just as much bullshit as everything else I saw.

And everything I saw was, indeed, bullshit. That, more than anything, was what I felt. That, more than anything, was the drum that beat inside of me. Not that it was all meaningless... but that every structure of meaning we were trying to give it was just as stupid and flawed as we were.

Like most who "fall from edge," I am, almost assuredly, an alcoholic. A very functioning one, albeit it, and very low on the spectrum. But... yeah.
I'm not being glib about that. Or dismissive. I recognize it. And I deal with it. And I keep it in check. And if, one day, I could no longer drink... I'd just shrug and say "Fuck. Really? Sigh... Ok."
There are things that mean something and things that don't. 

Like most who "fall from edge," I am also a maelstrom of all the various conglomerations of addictive personality disorder. 

And like my relationship with alcohol, my relationship with the bike is not necessarily a healthy one.
People like me... we like to find a thing... and actively or passively try to find ways to let it destroy us.

This, among a battlefield of others, was one of the prevalent thoughts banging around inside my head as Rich and I slogged our way through close to 10 hours of pretty much constant riding in Pisgah last Saturday.

Wait... were you expecting me to actually talk about the race? Ha! What could I possibly say? If you're looking for route details and such, read Rich's blog. Duh. That's a given if you want to know what gearing to run and what brake pads to use and what tire does stuff and what jacket makes happy. If you're looking for bizarre and sprawling thoughts on everything else... you're in the right place.

I have no idea where the checkpoints were. Honestly, I don't really even know what trails we were on. While I've been on all of them before... that is just not information that sticks with me. I mean... I will forever remember Bradley Creek, only because I honestly love all the river crossings. LOVE.
It never gets old. The part that got old was all of that huge, chunky gravel. That was new. And all I could think of as we rode it was "How?" What an effort that must have been to haul all of that rock into what is some pretty gnarly terrain. And why?
But everything else? Shiiiiiit. Is this Buckhorn Gap or Buckbear Gap or Bear Creek or Buckbeak or Bareback or Bonesaw or Banebutt? I. Don't. Know. But Rich does.

At a point, I started to feel pretty rough.
Yeah, I'd drankded my newfangled beet-jizz and all...

...and true to the label, I was tingling like a motherfucker...

Why?! Why I tingle?!!!

...but like a total dick, I wasn't actually eating. And very quickly that became a problem. I started to fade and flounder.
For pretty much the entire day, Rich stayed 50 to 100 yards ahead of me. Occasionally I'd hear him singing a song or jabbering indistinctly to me.
Meanwhile, I was a sad, sad shell of a man.

A few meandering and indirect words about Rich:
The other day, I was out at a restaurant. It was a mixed crowd.  There were a few young people seated at the bar. A youngish couple seated across from us... and behind us a much older crew. The men wore pastel izods and khaki shorts. Gray hair and lined faces. The women wore too much makeup and jewelry and smelled like perfume. They were all in various states of "out of shape."
As I often do, I was passively eavesdropping. As if watching shades of shades of shades of people flux about wasn't engaging enough. Amid talk of golf and jobs, the words "I turned 46 last year..." came out of the mouth of one of the men.

Wait... What the shitbiscuit?!

Do you ever go down the rabbit hole of old peers? Someone you're tangentially connected to from high school shares a link on Facebook, and a name you haven't seen in forever "likes" it? And the next thing you know, you're looking at the profile of some random person you barely knew who was a freshman when you were a senior...
...and they look like your Dad? 
Like... your 70 year old Dad?

Micah "@itsnotpoison" was drinking at the shop the other night and was telling me some story about some person doing some thing. I seriously have no clue what. Trying to gauge the situation a little more, I asked the age of the protagonist in his story. "I don't know. He's an older guy. Like... in his 40's."
Ah... You mean like me?
And while, if pressed, I would guess that the twenty-something Micah might put my age close to 40... I knew he was talking about a person a good bit "older" than me. You know... "someone in his 40's."

There is age. And there is age. While I undoubtedly look more haggard now than I did in my twenties... I do not look like the men at the table behind me. Or the people I went to high school with. They are legitimately old. For so many reasons.

Rich is... 46? 47? And while he has a mane of gray hair... And while, at times, I've seen him in various states of slow and mopey...  If it was possible to harness even a fraction of his energy, I have no doubt you could power a small country indefinitely.

Throughout our 10 hour day, he was talkative and frenetic. Moving quickly at all times. I never once saw him hurt. As we were rolling down Lower Black, and he was waiting for my blown ass to careen off rocks toward the finish, he was whooping and hollering. Pumping his fists in the air.

I was making crying noises.

The point is... in my own weird world of watching people either burn bright, or dimly glow... Rich is a 'sploding sun. And regardless of what place we would ever come in, he's pretty much the perfect PMBAR partner. And he's a good 'lil buddy. Thanks, man,

Once again, we missed the first step on the podium. A route miscalculation. Part of the beauty and terror of PMBAR. Even with my terrible-day-on-the-bike-falling-apartedness... had we not chosen badly, the chances are pretty high that we'd have been first... or at least had to duke it out with Matt and Andy.
Meh. I honestly care not. We had fun. And I was happy just to tag along.

Afterward we stood around the keg... ate PMBurritos and drank Oskar Blues. Second guessed our routes and relived the glory of trudging through waist deep water and carrying our bikes up unrideable hills. I looked around and took in my fellow riders. All shapes and sizes. And all ages. None of us old.

I noted absent friends. Whose lives had ended too soon. Got a little pensive. Turned in early.

This shit... standing on podiums and racing bikes... In so many ways, it just means fuck all.
But so does everything else we do.
And maybe... it means more than we think...


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Brainfires, Puppet Comedians, and Thievary: Five Longform Questions with my Beta Unit.

Number One: 
Q: Let's just get to it, right? Where the fuck you been? I mean... seriously? Not that you've ever been any thing remotely close to consistent, but it's been a hot minute.

A: Yeah... I know. Honestly... I don't know that you'd believe me if I told you.

Q: Try me.

A: Alright... So... there's this video game in the trailer park I live in, right? And because there isn't that much to do, I've always played it. A lot. And I got really good at it, you know? High score and everything. But it turns out... it's not a video game. It's a recruiting tool. Yeah. And the next thing I know... this bounty hunter tries to kill me... a Beta-Unit replaces me... I'm whisked away to space... and I'm a fucking star-fighter pilot! With my own ship and everything! Fucking nuts, man.

Q: Ah. Yes, I see. Can we... try this again?

A: Fine. But that story's better. You're talking about the blog?

Q: Sure. The blog. Social media. Social life...

A:Yeah. I've been a little MIA. Regarding the blog... it's... just a blog. I appreciate that people read it. I very much do. But I don't have any hubris with regards to its content. It's one big emo fart joke. And it's a place for me to put things out there. Circle around ideas. Refine styles. Purge. It's one of the reasons I tend to be a bit... repetitive at times. I'll keep bumping up against some idea... trying to express it in the right way. What's funny is that some of my favorite "pieces" tend to be the least read. And vice-versa. The metrics confound me. Why some posts have SO MUCH traffic. And others, less. But whatever the reason, can I just say... that  I wish people would stop reading the really old stuff. I'll look at the stats occasionally and see that there's a whole bunch of traffic to some post from 2010 or something... and I'll be like, "Fuck... not that post... anything but that post. Who's reading that?... because now I have to hunt them down and kill them."
Like with this new Facebook memories shit... constantly reminding you of how fucking stupid you were on social media five years ago. As if you didn't already know. I guess that's the benefit of always churning out content. Bury that shit... quick!
Regarding social stuff? I guess I've just been... quiet. Dealing with some things in my own way.
This should come as no surprise to anyone... but I'm a man of high highs and low lows.

Q: What? Like... manic depression?

A: Does it matter? And it's "situational Depression," remember? My "manic" isn't really on that spectrum. Think of it less as a series of peaks and valleys.... And more as a flat to rolling plain punctuated with abyssal crevasses. Sure, I have my moments of manic artistic energy... followed often by depressive torpor. And yeah, I deal with my own level of... what would you even call them... hallucinations? But I'm not controlling the tides or anything. I'm just... maintaining or not maintaining.
Imagine... that your brain is on fire... all the time. And that sometimes... that fire just outburns all the other fires inside you. Hollows you out.
That's where I've been. Just... hollowed out for a bit.

Q: Huh. Sounds fun, psycho. Did anything in particular trigger it?

A: Yeah. Probably. Likely a few things. More than a few. Maybe let's not go there? Yet?

Q: Fair enough. So... you're back?

A: Back? Meh. Maybe? I mean... I've been posting stupid shit on Instagram again, so...

Q: Indeed you have. Like this, you mean?

A: That, I'll have you know... is a scathingly witty and incendiary indictment of the bike industry as it currently stands.

Q: Is it, now? How, pray tell?

A: Everything is so... flat. Tired. Vapid. It's all either some unfunny meme about "Road bikers be like... Meanwhile I'm over here like... Braaaaaap." Or it's some insipid faux-earnest acoustic praise song about how bikepacking will make us better fathers. Or some cloyingly shallow deification of gravel. Or a christian kid throwing the devil horns. Or some vacuous frat-party on bikes. Or some barely guised misogyny.
There's... no energy. And the energy that there is? Is just fucking boring.
Fucking puppet-comedians... Everyone.

Q: So what you're saying is that this shitty stick-figure drawing of yours is going to turn the industry on it's head?

A: Oh man... it's already got like... almost 30 likes. So, yeah...

Anything been going on?

A: That's your question? Because that's like... one million questions pretending to be one.

Q: Whatever. Traveling? Racing?

A: Well... back in January I went traveling down in Florida for a bit. Chasing some sunshine. Riding trails and dirt roads. Writing. Thinking. Getting my fucked up head straight. The usual.
I honestly think that's kind of a part of the depression. I haven't been able to travel much since then. And that kind of thing... It's pretty much what keeps me going. And... I kind of need to. I've talked about this before. Some people love rooting down. I... don't. I don't care if I'm waking up in someone's driveway... or a Walmart parking lot. As long as I'm on the move.  That shit is what sustains me.

Q: Nice scoliosis. So why Florida?

A: Well... I don't know if you know this about me or not... but I am a Disney fanatic. Like... cannot get enough. You know those adult couples who go down there without any children... and you wonder what the fuck is wrong with them? That's me. But by myself. I'm the 40 year old tattooed guy riding "It's a Small World" fifteen times. Then eating cotton candy and sitting alone on a bench. Then taking a selfie in front of the castle.

Q: Well... that last sentence checks out at least.

A:  Nah. I admit that I'm kind of digging Florida right now. Yeah, it can be a gross mess. But I avoid the shit shows and do my own thing. Stay off the freeway. Take little roads. There's some surprisingly good riding there. And funny little pockets. Some really beautiful places. Clearwater springs. Beaches. Swamps.
That, and it's what's near by. Yeah, I'd rather be exploring Utah and Arizona. But I live in the Southeast. So...

Q: Umm... the mountains?

A: Yeah... but I also have this thing with heat. I'm built for it. I'll explore the mountains in the summer. But in the winter? I'm not ashamed to admit that I want heat and sun.

Q: So where all did you go in Florida?

A: All over, really. I'll usually head straight to Fernandina Beach, right over the FL. GA border. Sometimes I'll stop in Charleston or Savannah, but Fernandina is an easy point of ingress and egress into exploring the region. I'm pretty sure that Chris and Shanna are the ones who told me about that place. There's this park... Peter's Point, that allows boondocking.

Q: Boondocking?

A: Parking your van. Freecamping. Dorrit and I discovered a while back that Florida can be an easy place to do that. If you're on it and flexible. And she's on it. And I'm flexible.
Anyway... I'll pull into Fernandina late, pull the curtains and go to sleep. Wake up next to the beach. I've woken up in that place a ton, actually. From there, I rode a fun little trail at Fort Clinch. Then started heading south. Went down to central Florida and rode all the popular stuff. Santos. Alafia. Balm Boyette. I hit Alafia twice. Same with Santos. Tons of fun. Found some gravel roads outside Ocala. Hung out with my friend Joe in Tampa. Met my spirit animal.  Rode Croom. Climbed Panty Hill. Drank trail beers. Went to The Castle, Florida's premier Goth nightclub. Saw "the Senator."

Fact: we almost died getting this picture

Q: Wow. You're fucking hilarious.
Also, I like the way you just managed to sneak your entire Florida blog into this one.
So, is the riding that good?

A: Probably not? But I still love that kind of thing. Finding good trails in other places. I like seeing what everyone else is riding. Not everything can be Sedona, you know? I mean... if I was traveling and stumbled upon our trail system in Greensboro? I'd be pretty stoked. No. It's not epic. But it's fun. I love finding that kind of thing.
I'll write about it soon enough

Q: HA! Yeah right. Ok. Did you eat bath salts while you were there?

A: Not this time. But I did eat someone's face off. So... samesies.

Q: Anything else?

A: Hmmm. I did Six Hours of Warrior Creek last weekend. Great race. But damn, it sucked. I felt like shit from the moment we were rolling. Some days you have it. Some days you don't. I'm sure it doesn't help that I've pretty much woken up with a hangover for the past two months.

Q: Self-medicating with booze. That sounds healthy. It was a stacked field anyway. And you're old and dumb. So...

A: True

Q: Did... I hear you bought a house, recently? What happened to all that feral shit?

A: Ha. Let's save that for another time? Lots of words on that one.

Q: Alright.

Tell us about the bike. The one that got stolen?

A: God, what a shitshow.
So...During my... hiatus... Rich had reached out. Noticed I'd been kind of quiet and was checking in. I appreciated that. People don't really do that, you know? Most people don't really know what the fuck to do with their falling apart friends. They'll usually take a giant step backward. Say things like "Dude's a mess. I don't even know what to say to him."
Then he started bugging me about going to Tour de Charlotte. I didn't really have a ton of mojo, but thought that maybe forcing myself to be social... riding bikes around Charlotte in a mild but perpetual state of drunk... would be a good kick in the dick. Jolt me out of this funk. So I did.
And it was fun. And I felt a little better. Still wasn't back. But, better.

Until my bike was gone. Then I was lowwwwwwwwww.
And it wasn't even about the bike. You know? It was just... "of fucking course this shit is happening to me right now."

Q: What kind of bike?

A: It's a Cysco. Years ago, I went to this short-lived thing called the Southeast Expo. Or...SEXPO. Anyway, I met this dude, Richie Moore, who used to weld for Litespeed and Lynskey. He was starting to do his own custom building under the name CYSCO. I borrowed Jamie Pilsbury's and had a shit ton of fun. Enough that I wanted to get my own. So I did. At the time, Richie was making a ton of his bikes with the integrated seat-mast. I liked it. I mean... I get the dropper thing. But that's not really how I ride.

Q: Looks schmancy. Is it your favorite bike? Being custom and all?

A: Honestly? It's fine? I mean... yeah... I do love it. But it has it's problems. The clearance in the chain-stays is pretty tight. I can't run anything bigger than a 2.2. And even that depends on the tire. The front fork is stiff as shit... even for a rigid.

A: Why not put a suspension fork on it, dumbass?

A: Singlespeeds don't have suspension forks. They just... don't. I honestly don't think that they have carbon forks either... but... meh.

Q: How'd you end up getting it back?

A: This is the cool part. And is kind of one of the reasons I'm really back on social media shit. Almost immediately, the call went out. Tons of people shared the shit out of my post. Stevil put the word out. Rich put the word out. Fuck. Rich even offered fucking money.

Q: Fucking-money?

A: Mebbe. I didn't ask. In any case, I was floored. (If you're out there, thanks, lil buggy.)
So a day and a half later, I'm at the shop and Rich texts me.

A friend of a friend of a friend was riding his bike around Charlotte and sees another dude ride by. On my bike. Recognizes it immediately because it was all over the inter webs. So he turns around and starts following the guy... trying to figure out how he's going to confront him about it. He loses him through some neighborhoods, then decides to check in at a pawn shop nearby. Walks in on the transaction. Says something like "You probably want to get the fuck out of here. That bike is stolen." Dude bails. Cops show up. Bike is turned over to friend of friend. Rich scrambles to get it. Then cleans it and teabags it. Naturally.

That... is what kind of broke the funk, I think. Not just getting the bike back... because it's just a bike. But the rally and response. That and fucking Spring.

Q: That... and the tea-bagging.

A: And that. Looks like Red Zinger™

Q: Jail time for the thief?

A: I don't know? Doubt it? No one's asked about pressing charges or anything? My kiddo, Milo was asking a lot of questions about that. "I bet you're pretty mad, huh Dad?" And we talked a lot about why someone might take someone else's stuff. About the kind of circumstances that might put someone in a place that they'd do that. Desperation. Poverty. Systematic oppression.
I was bummed. But I wasn't mad. If it had been one of the fuckers who'd done Tour de Charlotte with us? Yeah. I'd have been pissed. But it wasn't. Yeah... maybe duder is just a shitty person who doesn't have a sense of right and wrong. Or... maybe living on the edge and scrapping by every day blurred that line for him. It's all complicated, right?

Q: Yeah. Did you say "duder?"

A: Yeah. Whatever. And look... I'm obviously not condoning or excusing it. I was just trying to explain to Milo that not everyone who does bad shit is bad. Sometimes there's a lot more to it.

Q: Sure.
What's next?

A: Gawd. Fuck this. I'm tire of questions. Let me ask YOU something.

Q: Well... since you're me... Why not? It's all the same pretentious garbage.

Will the real Watts Dixon please step forward?

A: Exactly. So... What's ahead?

Q: Seriously? That's the question I just fucking asked YOU. God, you suck.
I have no idea. You mean life? Long term? Short term? Or just like... events?

A: Whatever you want, sunshine.

Q: Alright. So... event-wise... I'll do the Bootlegger 100 in a week or two. It's unsung and awesome. And hard as shit. Everyone jizzes all over themselves for the midwest. But that's such a nauseatingly incestuous scene. And I say that from deep, deep in the south.
Then the biggest events on my nearish horizon are PMBAR with Rich... Transylvania Epic... and Dirty Kanza. In fact, I literally leave TSE and drive straight to Kansas. Pretty smart.

A: Are you doing Dirty Kanza with Yonder Journal?

Q: Nah. I didn't make the cut. Though I appreciate them putting me front and center in their propaganda.
Speaking of which... THAT is an interesting study. Not what Yonder Journal was talking about with the whole Project Y thing. Not "why do we test push ourselves?" etc.
But who applied and how. And why.
And when I was waiting to hear if I was picked or not, I found a few of the submission videos to watch. They were sooooo painful to watch. And sooooo illuminating.

A: How so?

Q: So... One of the more fascinating aspects of social media is that it suddenly gave voice to the voiceless. And I don't mean... empowered the downtrodden. I mean... all of a sudden every dipshit with internet could be the star of their own show. Even if you shouldn't. While before, you were a nobody... now... you could cultivate this... thing. Present yourself however you want. Create your own narrative.

A: Like this blog, you mean?

Q: Probably almost exactly like this blog. I mean... come on... we all know I'm a fucking nobody. I'm some dipshit psychotic shop owner in Greensboro, North Carolina. Why the fuck are you even here, people?
Anyway... you know that line in Fight Club...

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

It's like that. But now social media let's us all be shitty movie gods and rock stars of the most boring shows ever.
So all of these people... send in some version of the video they wish someone had made about them. Like... when the Specialized Adventure Dispatch videos came out, they all watched them and in their minds played out some version with them in the lead roles.
And Yonder Journal gave them an excuse to make the actual fucking video. Like applying for some reality show. And they went for it. Slow montages of them riding bikes on gravel. Earnest voiceovers about how they love to test themselves.
Meanwhile, it was like they'd never even read Yonderjournal or had any clue how that crew presents themselves.

A: You too, right?

Q: Nah. I mean... my video was cringeworthy, to be sure... but for other reasons. If people really want to see it, I might put it out there. But... ugh.
Honestly... I think the simple fact that I MADE a video is what's cringeworthy, you know?
Like... why? What did I hope to achieve?...because I definitely didn't want a new Specialized bike or whatever. Did I want to be famous on youtube? Part of some cool-kid cabal? Why? I already know those guys.
And what the fuck am I supposed to do with this thing now?

A: Were you bummed that you weren't picked?

Q: Meh. Sure. Rejection never feels great. I think I was feeling a little stale, and figured being a part of something like that might be an easy jumpstart. And I think that was a part of why I went quiet on social media. When that veil was pulled aside and you saw how stupid everyone's "ME ME ME! SHOW" was... I realized how stupid my own version was. So I cancelled it.

A: But... you're back for another season, it would seem.

Q: Sigh... Yeah. Short memory.
I will say this... One cool thing is that in making that video was that I taught myself how to use editing software to make movies. That was fun. So... you never know... I might put out a ton of shitty cringeworthy videos soon.

A: What else?

Q: Well... I take off later today to go rambling with Milo for a week in the van. His Spring Break. We're going to... surprise!... Florida. Beach it up. Ride trails. I might take him to Universal or something. We'll see. We'll sleep in Walmart parking lots. Campgrounds when we can. Driveways. Eat Crunch Berries. Cheese sandwiches. Oranges. Twinkies. Maybe make it to the Keys and go snorkeling. Listen to Adam and the Ants.

As for what's next in life? I dunno. Can I get back to you?

Q: What's your biggest fear?

A: Damn. Go for gusto, huh? the moment, my biggest fear... aside from accidentally grinding up a roach that got into the coffee beans and drinking him... is dying in Greensboro. I'm not afraid of the dying part. But I don't want to die here.

Q: Come on. It can't be that bad.

A: No. It's not. It's like Old Gregg. It's got all things that are good. But it's not where I want to die. Like... when Dorrit and I bought this house... the whole thing was... we're only doing this because it makes sense... financially... kiddo-wise. But this isn't "home." It's a basecamp to come back to, clean our shit, take showers, take dumps... and get moving again. In whatever ways we want and need. We do what we have to to make it comfortable for our kids and ourselves. Paint the walls. Hang pictures. Make sure the toilet works. Plant some vegetables and herbs. But that garden is the only roots we grow here. We don't spend money or time remodeling the fucking bathroom or the kitchen.
We use that money to get the fuck out.

Q: So... where do you want to go?

A: Fucking Everywhere.

Q: Then get moving, you feral asshole.

A: On it.