Friday, April 22, 2016

So Much Whine

When it finally peaked... the hangover was everything I knew it would be. And more.
I bolted from the bed, pulling every sheet with me. Tangled and ricocheting off walls and doors, falling onto my knees just in time to unleash hell into porcelain. 

My morning... had officially become an ordeal.

I knew the formula well enough. This was to be round one. There would be, at a minimum, two more... likely three...spaced about 15 to 20 minutes apart. I had at least one hour of this kind of bolting... as I slowly transitioned from the contents of my stomach... to coughing up bile... to ultimately just dry heaving the last toxic remnants of my soul into that white bowl. 

What. The. Fuck... is wrong with me?



Though... on some level...I know the answer to that. It's just...complex. Complicated.
Or... maybe not? Maybe it's simple. Maybe...it's just me. I'm just that fucked up.
I fall apart to stay together. Self-destruct to maintain. Hurt myself to keep from hurting myself.
Blackout...rather than spend yet another night wrestling with ghosts. Whatever that means.

Anyway...there you have it.
(Fuckballs... you really are a mess, aren't you.)
Maybe.

You know...I almost didn't go to Frostbike this year.
Because reasons...
But I did.
Because reasons...

(Wait. This... This is about Frostbike?!!! That was...like...three fucking months ago!!!)

Yeah. Whatever. Look...I've just been...hiding. Thinking. Where I go? I dunno. Sometimes...you just need to curl up in a ball and suck your thumb. (For two months?) And anyway...I've said it before, but no one could ever accuse me of being prolific.
Profane? Yes. Problematic? Always. Provocative? meh. Productive? Gods, no. Prosaic? Probably. Profound? Wouldn't that be something. Promiscuous? Hmmm...
And sometimes...writing...is difficult. If you know, you know. If you don't?...I don't know. You know? And the thing is, if I'm not feeling what I'm trying to push out of my brain...I just don't force it. There's nothing worse than sitting on that proverbial toilet for hours to produce little more than a "plink" of what is ultimately still just waste. I'd rather have literary diarrhea and literally shit the motherfucking shit out of my literary and literal pants than be verbally and emotionally constipated.

And then, sometimes... the muse...just...pushes me away. Hard.
I understand. I'd push me away too.

And it isn't about Frostbike, anyway. .
It just isn't NOT about Frostbike.
Like I said... I've been in hiding. I need to purge a few things before I get to current events... like Interbike 2008.
(Whatever...you're still a fucking idiot.)
Yeah... I know.



This time... I attended Frostbike in the capacity of "media." Via Dirt Rag Magazine. To talk with shops and vendors and peoples regarding print that will come out in the near future. A more coherent (or not?) extension of this... and this...  My own musings on the state of bicycle retail, coupled with past, present and future travels... rambling and ramblings to put it all into a perspective that I can live with. ("Live with?" What...does that even mean?) What? Does that seem... dire? Histrionic?
Aye...Perhaps it is. But...have you met me? I mean...
Also... I rarely write sober.

Now... how many of those conversations will ultimately be distilled into usable content remains to be seen. Suffice to say... I'll try.

Once again, I extend a tremendous amount of gratitude to QBP for their hospitality... flying me out, putting me up, feeding me...indulging me... much less simply deigning to allow me to sully their reputation and property with my ill-conceived presence. It means a lot. Because whatever very minute amount of internet fame I have...most of it in the form of unabashedly and relentlessly mocking everything meaningful to everyone... making the occasional spectacle of myself... "racing" bikes or whatever... being Rich's sometime paramour... and actively trying to save bicycle retail, tear theism apart, and very publicly (and embarrassingly) grapple with what it means to live and love in this day and age...
...I'm not one of the popular kids.

I'm just...not.

I'm awkward and sullen... Manic and inappropriate...
Foolish... Distracted... Melodramatic... Drunkety...

I don't whore product. In fact... I rarely talk about it, if ever.
I don't circlejerk with any particular cabal of inclusion or exclusion...and I don't try to. (I jerk alone.)
I don't define my life with inane and vacuous hashtags... (I mean... unless you count #liveferalordie and #everybodythroatpuncheverybody ... both of which are extremely serious business, I'll have you know.)
And...I don't take good pictures. Unless you count this one.

And you should. 
do have a widely read blog...at least according to the blog stats (I'm particularly huge in Germany, btw)...but let's be honest...my writing is personal and hypberbolic... emotive and hebrephenic at a level as to be nearly incomprehensible. And even when it is readable, it only means anything to me. Which to my mind, is as it should be.


I'm told... that at some point my name came up in casual conversation at Frostbike... and the observation was put forth that "he's like... super emotional and shit, huh?"
Ha. Hmmm... Yeah. Something like that. And I fear... that I'm only getting stranger with every passing day.
It's not that I don't give a fuck, because depending on the fuck...I give all the fucks.
It's more that...I just don't give a fuck.
(But... you just...)
Yeah. I know what I said. So what? You think I give a fuck?

Sigh...it is what it is.
In another day and age, I died penniless and alone. Wracked with consumption. In the heath...on a moor... in a workhouse.
A prodigious, shitty body of unpublished work stuffed in the sack I use as a  mattress. Pining away for the unreciprocated and impossible. Wasting away to nothing as I pen a million repetitive and overwrought missives to thoughts and feelings and absence.

Or I'm killed in a duel.

Or more likely...burned as a witch.

Ahem.... look, what I'm ultimately trying to say is... super thanks, QBP....For taking even the slightest interest in what I'm doing...both as a bikeshop...and as a hyperbolic and raving mess of a human being.
It means a lot.
Because me? Come on...I'm fucking nobody.

Many a day has passed, but I distinctly remember having the conversation with Loose Nuts Chris a few hours after our arrival in Minneapolis, wherein we both earnestly stated that we had "no intention of getting the least bit sideways on the first night," and that, if anything, we would refrain from drinking to excess on any level for the majority of the weekend.

Greggers and Chris

12 hours later, regurgitated margarita still crusted to the corners of our mouths, we were both wondering how we could possibly fake our way through the vaguest semblance of conversation with other people without proving to the world, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were both damaged in the kind of ways that may never be fixed. But then... that's just my standard operating procedure. (Or SOP, as we call it in the business. (I've never ONCE called it that, btw.))
It began with the hotel bar... meeting and greeting friends from afar over beers...transitioned to joining Greggers and Cori Peplndkdakdajak et al. at a nearby bar, where tequila became a part of our math...and as the night progressed, as did the math... and soon enough we were mired in solving complex and confounding equations. Equations like "what is a pants?"
At least I was.
And then....darkness.

Look... we fight ourselves how we can. And waking up "wanting to die" because of too much drink is probably better than just waking up "wanting to die." Right? Right. So just... Yeah...

Once I'd recovered enough that the smell of anything didn't create a volatile reaction with the very core of my being... I headed downstairs to take part in "learning." Meeting up with Chris, who I found to be in a similar state.
I only bolted from a seminar once... and while I might have been fighting the nausea, it wasn't to throw up. It was because the speaker and I weren't on the same planet. Looking over his theoretical budget for shop renovations and noting how close it was to my annual revenue, I exchanged a knowing look with Chris... got up... and walked out. Then went and had a bloody mary and talked with people who I could relate to.

I'm sure that you don't want to hear the mundane details of sitting in seminars...and honestly, I don't want to talk about it...but one of my big takeaways, and one of the things I've been thinking about for the past few years in particular, is that regardless of my feelings toward retail (fear and loathing)... in order to be viable as a bike shop (or any brick and mortar store) in the coming new world order... you have to offer something... unique. (Yes.) Singular. (Totally.) And possibly...peculiar. (Absolu...Wait. What?) Otherwise... what are you offering that can't be found online?
And if "selling things" isn't the focus of the shop... because fuck "selling things"... in what oblique way do you thrive as a retail store. And what does that even mean to me.
(Umm... wait. That was your takeaway, Watts? Because... I don't know, man...)
Yes. It was. After a fashion.
The things I want to do with retail don't lend themselves to metrics or data. "Turns" and "profit" aren't my world. I mean... they are in that I rely on both to make my modicum of a living. But they are ancillary to what I want to accomplish with the shop. If that makes sense.
(It doesn't)
Yeah... I know.

But more and more... I think that is the current paradigm of shoplife. And I came back from Frostbike thinking heavily about it all...
About all the elements that come together to make a successful and stable store in this day. About the shops I want to visit the next time I get in my van and drive. About the people I want to ride bikes with and share a drink with.

But I won't go into that now. Because that's not this post. This post is just me...pouring the first drink of the night.

Not Greggers. 


And not that I haven't been drinking... But this is the first drink I'm sharing with you.
Some of it is working on other things. I have a recurring column in DirtRag Magazine. Snippets of shop life as seen through my skewed vision.





The feature coming out later in the summer. Other pieces in other places. Some of it is getting to ride my bike. In the way I want. So long and hard that my hands shake when I'm done. Destroyed enough that I pass out the moment the sun goes down.
And some of it is a list of projects. Projects that build with potential energy until they finally can't be contained. And blast out of me... like the effluence of a hangover.

Yeah... It's been a while...So drink with me. We can see where the night goes.
Maybe it ends tangled up and close. William Least Heat Moon's "deep cleave and merge of thigh."
Maybe it ends with a black eye. In an empty bathtub with a bottle of wine.
Maybe it ends with a puddle of blood. Stitches and sutures.
Or maybe...it never ends.






Thursday, February 25, 2016

Everything Fappens For a Reason.

Except this.

#mspaint courtesy of Rich.

Even while my body was tentatively deciding whether or not I was entirely done being sick in Rich's basement bathroom... still deciding which end to be sick out of... and still deciding if it wasn't just done with this tiresome "living" business...we knew Watts Fappening would fappen again in 2016.
Even if we pretended it wouldn't.
In the same way you finish a race...and with sweat, mud, blood, vomit and urine still caked to your face (wait...face?), you swear you will never do this to yourself again. Meanwhile...your head is already plotting a triumphant return.
We learn from our mistakes.(We hope.) Unless I'm mistaken.
And while the Fappening is, in its entirety, a mistake... on every level... There's that part of your brain that says, "yes, but...if certain decisions were or weren't made... could it not be less...mistake, and more "happy accident?"
Less "wetting the bed"... and more "nocturnal emission."

Not to spoil the ending to this riveting tale, but this year, .I emerged relatively unscathed. There was no destroying Rich's bathroom. There was no puking in his neighbors' (plural) yards (plural.) There was no talk of suppositories. There was just... Fappening. Without a doubt, things got sideways. But they didn't spiral.

Here's at least a portion of the motley crew who joined us on our drunken Homeric odyssey...
...complete with sirens and lotus-eaters and monsters and pigs and evil suitors.
photocred: Zac White. aka: New Zac. aka: New Zac City

I arrived at Rich's in time to put on chamois-pants, overthink my layers, and head to Back Yard Trails for a bit of "dirt church." (A vexing phrase, second only to________ in it's tedium.) The weather had promised to be beautiful and warm. And while it proved to be warmish... I was hard pressed to find the beauty. In the same way that snow can transform a landscape.... sun just... helps. I can look at a shitty, patchy yard and find beauty in discarded child's toys... or in the shadows of scraggly grass. The dying black-walnut looks almost majestic against the blue backdrop of a clear day.
But a day of slate gray skies? Then the clouds...just become Xrays. The kind that reveal unwanted masses. I don't see that beauty and majesty anymore.
I just see trash. And telephone poles. And vape lounges. Tumors.

But I digress.
We rode a good portion of the BYT, with Rich's ever-vigilant type-A brain keeping a keen eye on the time. I like BYT. It's challenging in ways that my local trails are not. Narrow bridges and logs and obstacles that make you pucker up and learn to hold your line.
We wound our way through tight, east coast singletrack... jumped off things (or not, in my case)... and then went home to get ready for the bacchanalia.

This is very high in the air when you're Rich's size.
 The ride to Sugar Creek sucked. I don't know if it was the fact that I'd ridden entirely too hard the day before...for reasons that elude me, subjecting myself to the unholy hell known as an "FTP test"...then lifting weights. Or if it was my under-inflated tires. Or if it was the nachos and buffalo wings that we'd just ingested, and which were beginning to seek a point of egress.. (fore and aft.)
But either way, I found myself cursing Rich as we climbed the many hills of suburban Charlotte. We got to Sugar Creek at 2:01 on the dot, and found that only Rachel and Ryan (Bill Nye) were as fashionably on time as us. Soon enough an entourage rode up... and well damn....I guess we had fappening on our hands.


Rich, Ryan and myself... the brainless braintrust of Watts Fappening.
I opted for the relative safety of a pale ale... and from here we carried on to Old Mecklenburg... to imbibe German beer, devour pretzels, warm ourselves by fires, (and subsequently smell like said fires for the rest of the evening.)
By this time last year, I was nigh on my way to total drunkety...Old Meck having been stop 3 and beer 5. This year...with a Dunkel Lager being beer three for the day... I was just pleasantly chatty (annoyingly so, I'm sure.)
As we were plotting our next move, a few of us noted the new distillery that had opened nearby, The Broken Spoke. Projecting a bicycle theme onto the place, we demanded that this be the next unplanned stop. At which point the route and trajectory of the evening fell into chaos.
You know about chaos theory, right?
No?
This will explain it.



I went with the house bourbon, and we all found ourselves mezmerized by what I'm guessing was a very old version of Don Quixote playing on the television.

Skip and Moe had come down from Roanoke for this mess.
Again!

Broken Spoke
Photo cred: New Zac City
From the Broken Spoke... I have no idea. I could go and reread Dicky's order of events... but it's late. And you should go read it anyway.
I'm pretty sure it was Triple C. Which is where all the cute dogs are. If getting a beer there hadn't been as much of a clusterfuck as it was... I'd have pet all of them.

We are the crew.


last year.


this year

I...don't actually know where this is. Or who took this picture.
 I have no memory of drinking from such a chalice.

My understanding is that from here we rode to Lenny Boy. Where we accosted some poor couple out on a date.
I quite liked whatever I drankded there, colour of mud or not.

From here to the Sycamore... which was... horrible. Do you like crowds? Do you like crowds of yuppies who literally shit out more money in a year than you will ever make in a lifetime, but who are still somehow almost on the very bottom rung of functional intelligence? Oh... You do.
Then that was your crowd.
But it wasn't for us... as much as I wanted a damn beer from there. So we rode to the Spoke Easy instead. Tis a fine establishment... full of my peoples.



And... from here... aside from eating the best quarter of a bird carcass that I've ever had in my life at some rando restaurant up the street... things begin to slip.
Birdsong was next. I think? But when you hit that point in the evening where you start saying things like... "I totally remember this place." And that particular place has moved to an entirely new location... and, as it turns out, is actually a totally different brewery than the one you're thinking of... you really just don't even know, do you?
(Shhh. No more talk.)

Birdsong

(insert busted nut joke here)

We reached Snug Harbor in time for Gold Sprints. At about the time I'm typically reading bedtime books to my son... falling asleep next to him. So my yawn game was strong. But...that's the beauty of day drinking. You can accomplish a lot (of drinking) by a pretty decent hour, and still get a good nights sleep. But no....Instead... we opted to slog through until midnight.


Rich trounced this poor baggy jeaned soul. 
When we hit the midnight hour, we shrugged our shoulders, said our goodbyes to friends who stood confidently on wobbly legs... bold in their blindness... and rode our bikes back to Rich's.
Where I awoke the next morning without a trace of nausea. So I either won.
Or lost.

But this is how it is with fappenings. Sure... there's the build up to a manic and triumphant peak. But once that crescendo is over, there's that awkward moment of coming to... sheepishly cleaning up... and knowing that as good as it all felt...you probably looked pretty ridiculous making who knows what kind of faces and noises while you flopped around.
I'm not above looking ridiculous. As long as it keeps the void at bay.
Keep on fapping, kids.

What a mess.


Friday, February 19, 2016

My First Time

This past September, taking momentary refuge from the river of people flooding out of Interbike, Mike from DirtRag sat down next to me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a recurring column for the magazine. My own sort of Grimy Handshake. A "from the trenches" moment. We had the loosest idea of what that would really be, save for stories. And that we knew I had many stories... about many things. From insane customers... to insane repairs... to insane situations... to my own insanity. 
And even though I knew I would never be as good as Ferrentino... or anyone... 
Yes. Fuck yes. I'm in.
He asked me to submit 300 or so words... and I submitted just under 1000. Because... reasons. 
And while he was undoubtedly vexed by this... he's also pretty used to it, I suspect. And lucky for me, he liked it enough that the 300 word column became a full page.
But he still had to edit it. Because... reasons. 

By now, most of you have received your copies of DR. And possibly read my words. So with Mike's blessing, I'm reposting my original submission here on the blog. Unedited. Because it's a bigger story than could fit on that page. But that's what happens when you submit too many words at the last minute of your deadline... from your phone.  
I'm not going to make a habit of doing this, so go subscribe. Seriously... 
And not because of my words, fool. Because of the words by folks like Bama and Stevil. Rebecca and Mike. Eric and ASS. Or the story in this issue by Hank Hansen. I almost threw my pint glass across the room it was so good. Srsly.




Hangdown in the Wheelstrings:
My First Time.

As he walked out the door, the extent of what he had just said, and what he had implied...much less everything we'd dealt with to get to this point... sank in.
"Man..." I began, knowing I should stop, but unable to impede the oncoming wave of vitriol. "...Go fuck yourself!"

I didn't say it so much as it burst out of me...rising awkwardly in pitch and vehemence with each syllable.
I was instantly chagrined... because I'd just gone that place I never wanted to go as a business owner.

It started with a "spot." A spot that wasn't a crack. Years of experience later, I recognize a ding when I see it: A blemish in the carbon indicative of some minor trauma. A rock or piece of debris getting flung into the frame with enough force to take out a small brittle chunk of clearcoat. But I was pretty new to the game and to owning a shop, and subsequently hypersensitive of everything, good or bad, that we did. And I was confounded enough that I was going to bat for the customer, regardless of how illegitimate I thought the claim was. Or...of how difficult a position he was putting me in. Because upon seeing the blemish, instead of coming straight to us, the dealer for the bike in question...he'd taken it to another shop. Where he was told (by this shop that did not sell him the bike) that yep... it was a crack and probably unsafe to ride. At which point, instead of getting the opinion of the shop that would handle the warranty, the customer then paid this other shop to take the bike apart and brought us a naked frame. Now... this should come as no surprise, but in the case of a potential warranty, first and foremost, the companies want to see the bike intact. So that they have some clue as to the nature of the damage. To ensure that "just riding along" wasn't really "accidentally drove it into my garage."
I explained this... but it didn't register. The other shop had planted a seed of doubt and then willingly watered it by undermining any possibility of warranty. I ultimately acquiesced and contacted the company, nonetheless... explaining the situation and sending photos of the "damage."
They declined the warranty. Surprise.
He came in one evening and asked about his bike. I could smell alcohol on his breath. On his being. I broke it as softly as I could. It went as badly as you can imagine. He told me that he just knew I was going to fail him...picked up his frame and stormed out... adding that "it must be nice to be able to afford to treat customers this way."
At which point... I lost it.
Because I couldn't afford anything at that time. I couldn't afford a house. A car. A credit card. A baby. A wife. A life. NSF notices were my norm. I was doing everything I could to hold on...even going so far to pursue hopeless warranty cases because the thought of telling someone NO at that point seemed like a death-knell.
So as he approached the door, I said what I felt. What I'd wanted to say the moment he walked in with a blemished but not broken frame and a head full of attitude. Go. Fuck. Yourself.
Which I immediately regretted. Not because I didn't mean it. Or that I didn't think he deserved it. Because as friendly as most of our interactions had been, most of them had been a monumental pain in the ass. I regretted it because it wasn't a place I'd ever wanted to go in "customer service."
So I went outside to apologize. At which point things...devolved. He got right in my face. All 7 feet, 250lbs of him. His pupils were the size of atoms and his fists were clenched at his side. Fists that were nearly as large as my head...were rumored to have been involved in mixed martial arts fighting...and could, I had no doubt, knock me unconscious or dislodge something vital with one blow. He screamed at my forehead for a bit, telling me he'd beat my ass if I "wasn't the kind of pussy who would sue" him.
I was serene as I talked him down. I didn't try to explain the impossibility of the situation...but just offered sincere apologies. When he left, and I walked inside to find my staff clutching u-locks and ready to come to my aid...my eye finally started to twitch the way it wanted to from the get go.

And that...was the first time I told a customer to go fuck himself.
And I'm only a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn't the last.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bikes Don't Kill People... Winter Does.


Not to be redundant...but I'm just not built for winter.
Though, to be clear... what I really mean is that I'm not built for the winter I currently inhabit. It's less of a weather thing... and more of location thing. I have no doubt that at some point, mounds of snow would vex me in all the same ways that they don't... but there is something about slogging through a long spell of short days of the exact same banality...but colder... that is somehow even more taxing and draining than the most hostile of blizzards.

Snow transforms a place.
The shitty suburban street that you live on... the one that on a good day sucks the life out of you, and on a bad day makes you bareknuckle box windows, walls, ghosts (and yourself)... is suddenly transformed into something... magical.
Walking to the corner bar morphs from a resigned, sad ritual of keeping the void at bay... into an enlivening adventure, rife with the joie de vivre of existence.
Riding loops around a country-club neighborhood... the one that fills you with angst and disquietude because you can't wrap your head around the fact that people actually make enough money to afford living there... becomes an invigorating snowy-fun-time-odyssey-of-wonder.

As opposed to yet another confounding circumnavigation of pedestrian ennui manifest.

Yet another trip up the mountain with your boulder. Sisyphus of the suburbs.

CAUTION: Existential Crisis Ahead

What I'm really trying to get at is that if there was a layer of snow on the ground that stuck around for a few months... I'd take it. And I'd recreate appropriately in it. Whether it was on a board, or on a pair of skis, or on snowshoes... or on a fatbike.


There is a light that never goes out.

Unless you knock it out.

Because a fatbike, contrary to mundane opinion, is no dumber than any other bike. Certainly no dumber than a fixed gear. Or a gravel-grinder. Or an E-bike. (That's actually a trick. There is no bike dumber than an E-bike.) In fact, if you bother to observe it unhindered by the lens of your own ass, you start to realize pretty quick that everything dumb about a fatbike...or any bike... is really just everything dumb about people. That we can't create our own identities without props or foils. Dealing poorly and ambiguously with absolutes. The vexing and hackneyed sentiment that some thing is either the pinnacle of existence. Or the nadir.
You're the fucking nadir, you fucking morlock. #fuckbikesgetlaid
(Ummm...What?)

I don't even know. It's these tachyons. They're muddling everything up.

You know what? The Velominati are wrong. It's not about the bike. And if it is... then you're fucking boring.
And I say that as a person whose existence is so rooted and mired in bikes that I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend my life.

But there is no zealot like the neophyte. (Or the troglodyte.) And the bike... is a powerful deity. But at some point, if you have any depth at all, you start to examine your deities a little more critically, and truly reflect on what they ultimately really mean to you. And your relationship with that idea gains a significance and profundity that extends far beyond some frenzied initial furor... and evolves past some identity you want to project...or some inane hashtag you purport to live.
Unless that well you're tapping is little more than a shallow hole...And I have my theories.
Much time...  We're fucking doomed.

In my own arbitrary and warped canon, one of the key tenets is that the bike, first and foremost, always teaches humility...and never engenders hubris. And therein lies the pitfall of any theology. Because when filtered through humanity's embryonic psyches... it seems that everything turns to hubris. Be it a god, a bike, or the medium on which you fight gravity. @gravelassassin @singlespeeddildo @fatbikejebus @pavement4eva
Though as a rule... I reject theology. And theism.

Sigh...Forgive me. You know what this is? I turned 40 a little bit ago. And it hit me harder than I thought. Some of it is reflections on mortality. Some of it is reflections on fatherhood. And some of it...just because.


And it's not that I have any aspirations of keeping up with the Joneses. Because...look at me.
It's more that I'm trying to figure out what my real legacy will be. Aside from a swath of destruction.

Sometimes I worry. That I'm on some sort of trajectory that I'll never be able to change. That the strangeness in me has more gravity than I really give it credit for. And that I'm destined to unravel in all the ways I always knew I would. And then some.
Because while we all size each other up and create arbitrary barometers with which to measure one another's internal and external climates... I have seriously grave doubts as to whether anyone else wonders, as they shake hands with a person, if and when they last considered punching themselves as hard as they can in the face.
Because that might speak volumes about their character.
Or mine.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Or you.

(Is winter over yet?  #tachyons)




Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Farther I Go... The Less I Know.

Maybe... it's that I'm a mammal.
When the sun stays low... and disappears at 5pm everyday. I just... shouldn't. I'm supposed to be in my cave. My tree. Wherever it is that feral chimp-possums hibernate. But, alas... I can't. So I slog through what seems like a million days... self-medicating with alcohol, coffee, tethered-riding, and jumping around in my living room to "Plyo-X"(scaring the everloving shit out of my dog). Until finally, the darkness passes. Physically, at least. Thus far, my mental darkness demonstrates a tenacity that is as inspiring as it is expiring.


Procrastination saves lives. Never doubt that.

Those of you that know, know... and those that don't... might never. But it's a spectre that follows you everywhere. Probably forever. You just... stay ahead of it.
It's like Fugazi says....( even if it's not what they were talking about)...
"If I stop to catch my breath... I just might catch a piece of death."
Keep moving.

And maybe it's less that I'm mammal... and more that... I'm human?
I've always felt that humanity skirts this fine edge. We have an undoubted spark of... something. Intelligence. Spirit. Spunk. Something. But ultimately, we're just a higher order of mammal. Stuck in limbo. One in whom self-awareness has turned to self-aggrandizement. Laughing at primates laughing at rodents laughing at spiders laughing at insects. And we seem to think that spark of "something"... is much more than it is. Some people think it's "divinity." Me? The closest I've ever come to calling something "divine" is when I look at the sky. And even then, to even think of calling it that is just to fail at language. It's looking at something much larger than myself. It's knowing my own pitiful size and scope in the scheme of this universe. Knowing that the stars are impassive... the planets unimpressed... the sun ambivalent... and that the sky gives literally zero fucks.

When I look at humanity? I just see... more mammals. I see animals too smart for their own good and too dumb to recognize their cognitive shortcomings. I see the DNA we share with everything. I see the porcine. The equine. The canine. The bovine. The murine. The simian. Sometimes... the avian. Or the reptilian. Or... the ichthic. Shadows of "The Innsmouth look," which I guess hints at its own twisted "divinity"... one far removed from anything most people would ever yearn to be associated with. (Look it up.)

It's to the point where I've sometimes gotten lost in our absurdity... at the wrongest of times. Lying in bed with a beautiful girl, our clothes scattered across the floor... sated and smitten and unable to stop my awe-struck and reverent utterings... "You have a nose. A nose! That is so. fucking. weird."
(In gentle and hushed tones, of course.)

But divine? As in...exalted? Gah! To my mind, that's more terrifying than a massive cephalopodic Chtulhu coming to wipe us all out.



Because when I see people, for the most part I just see weak chins... big noses... crooked teeth... balding heads... grotesque paunches... skin conditions... small minds... lecherous drives... and a total, appalling lack of humility.
If that's a spark of divinity... can I, like...fall from grace now? Or something?

We need a new mythology.
Joseph Campell called myth the "secret opening through which the inexhaustible energy of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation." More and more... I think the true travesty is that we can't see past our own asses when that energy pours through us. Which makes sense, given the flawed and incomplete lenses through which we view the world. We laugh at the rabbit's erroneous take on this existence.. but never think to laugh at our own. Imbuing ourselves with purpose and "grace." As opposed to recognizing the opposite...That the currents surrounding us are more meaningful than our own pitiful floundering in them could ever be.

I think... that short memory is something of a genetic imperative in humanity. Forget the past so we can invent the future. What's the quotation? "To err is human... to forget, divine?" No? Whatever. It is now. Because it seems like making up some narrative that says we're meant to be there is infinitely more appealing to people than considering the possibility that ultimately, we're just another extinction waiting to happen.

Look.
The point is... winter sucks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

LIVE FERAL OR DIE

  1. 1
  2. :  of, relating to, or suggestive of a wild beast <feral teeth> <feral instincts>
  3. 2a :  not domesticated or cultivated :  wildb :  having escaped from domestication and become wild <feral cats>


I was driving into the sun. That low winter sun that is somehow brighter and more intense than anything you've ever seen. And I felt that tightening in my chest. Like my ribs were doing everything they could to stop my heart from exploding. As the blue deepened and the clouds morphed from white to pink to ochre, it overwhelmed me, as always. This expansion of myself. Past the petty interactions of my day. Past the wheels I'd spun into ruts. Past all the things I'd spent too much time on and that ultimately meant nothing... and far into the things that would mean everything if this was the last time I ever saw that burning orb set.
The life I live and the life I want. The things that stand in the way. The things that don't. The people who enrich it. The regrets I would take into the ground.
Knowing that tomorrow I'd likely get lost in ruts again... in day to day chores and tasks and rituals and niceties. But for the moment, basking in this feeling of... compelling conviction. Conviction that if I don't chase the life I want... it will never happen.

Yeah. I'm always turned up to 11. I've just come to accept that. So should you.

This time, as my thoughts were fueled by sky...I found myself circling this idea that had popped in my head on my last ramble.

It started as a seed. A malapropism. A thing I'm not particularly good at, but play all the time. Swapping out words to make new meanings. Sensical nonsense.
I'd awoken with morning light just beginning to pour into my rear windshield. And with bleary eyes, I read the words that were painted there.
Like the bells that chime in the van everytime I take a turn or hit a bump, they were a remnant of the previous owner. Not something I'd have done myself... but somehow appropriate. Or ironic. Or...not. So I kept them.



Live Free.



Not that it's a sentiment I disagree with. But more that it's just so... twee.
So in my head, I changed it. Live Feral. I chuckled to myself, but felt something stick inside and take root.
For the many hours that I rode and drove over the next few months... the seed grew... and I found myself circling this idea... cautiously... but also with unbridled curiosity. Like a wolf.

Live Feral.

On one level it's the same nonsense I deal in every day. A t-shirt slogan of glib pith. As meaningless as it is meaningful.
But these days, more than anything, it's almost as if that's our language. Like some bastardized kanji. Symbols and phrases with multiple meanings depending on the inflection or context.
These are the abstractions we use to communicate simply about complex feelings... abstractions we use to understand the world. Like a god. It's not real... but for some it's the closest our primitive mammal brains can come to approximating those things that make our eyes cross when we think about them too hard. To approximating that tightening and lightening of the chest that the setting sun impels.

I've never warmed much to poetry. Which is surprising, considering my love for some fluidity of words and meaning. Maybe it's the smug faux-earnestness that follows it like a dog. Or maybe it's just my own general poorness at it as a medium.
But as much as it makes me squirm... I get it. I get the power in cryptical obscurance. In terse coded sentiment. In telling grammatical laws to go fuck themself and saying what you mean in ways that aren't readily accessible.

Live Feral.

Feral: having escaped from domestication and become wild.

My own stint with domesticity ended...badly. Maybe badly is the wrong word. How about... dramatically. I didn't just escape...but chewed out of my cage, tore up the house, bit a fuckton of people, and basically shit everywhere. (Everywhere.)
And while I can't recommend people go about things the way I do...ever. I do recommend they fight tooth and nail against the things that oppress in their lives. Be it mundane and suburban. Or sweeping and global. Private and stifling.
The feeling of despair and despondence that overwhelmed me when my ex and I went shopping for a new dining room table, almost 12 years ago, is still palpable. Like the overwhelming despair you feel in 2nd grade when the crushing realization that you have at least 10 more years of sitting in desks getting yelled at by unhappy people for having a head 1000 miles away hits you. We didn't need a new table. But there I was. Following along. Thinking this was where I needed to be. There was some expectation of where our lives went now. Living in a house had to become owning a house. Living happily together in that house had to become marriage. Marriage had to become having a baby. Having a baby had to become getting jobs that we probably didn't want. So that we could afford new dining room tables. That we didn't need.

Live Feral.

It isn't reducing to instinct. It's not plunging into self-absorption and ignoring roles and relationships and responsibilities. It's just examining the ones that matter and the ones that don't. It's letting go of that expectation. The expectation of what you do next. The expectation of how you live.
And it's about taking that fucking table, chopping it up and using it as firewood somewhere outside. Under some sky.
Not under a prefab roof in a suburb where the only way you can discern your house from others is a number.

Live Feral.
Or die.

Friday, November 6, 2015

You down with TKOPP?

Where You Go? Part 7.2B

The moment I realized that I was lying on the ground... I tried to get up.

I couldn't.

My body wouldn't listen. I rolled back and forth for a moment, talking to myself and hearing gibberish come out of my mouth. That would have unnerved me...if I wasn't so preoccupied with why I couldn't get off the ground. When I finally managed to roll onto my hands and knees, but still couldn't figure out how to stand.... my brain started cycling a message... like a klaxon in my head...
"This is bad... This is bad... This is bad... This is bad..."

At first... I thought I'd broken my neck. Because nothing else could seemingly explain the entire lack of control that I had over my body. But... I could feel everything. I could feel the sharp pain in my hip... in my elbow...my neck. Just...nothing was working. As I tried to stand, I was like a newborn giraffe. Falling over multiple times as I pulled myself repeatedly up onto unsteady legs. But damned if I wasn't going to just make it happen. Because... if I could stand up, even when my body said I couldn't... then that meant I was A-okay. Right?
When I was finally on my feet... walking in unsteady circles and trying to stay upright...the first question that popped in my head was... "Where the fuck am I?" 
Then... "No... seriously... where the fuck am I?" 
And then... "Oh fuck... where the fuck am I?"

Because... I had no... fucking... clue.

Apparently, I was here.
Happier times .. four hours ago... before "the fall"
(Thanks be to the professional photoguy I wrangled into snapping this with my phone.)

I did a quick mental inventory. 
Name - Dots Wixon (check)
Address - a shitty rental in that place (check)
Son's name - Milobobilo (check)
Place of work - Revalucation Cycles (check)
Birthday - ohfuckI'mturningFORTYthisyear!!! (check)
Birthplace - Shatlanta (check)
President - thanks for making me wreck my bike Oh-bama! (check)

I knew all of it. 
But I still didn't know where the hell I was. Save that I was in...a place. On a trail. On my bike. (well... until recently)

I sat down... and tried to get my shit together. As much as I could account for.... I could not account for where I was... and why.
Phone calls ensued, and I sufficiently freaked out La Dorita with some confused jabber. Exchanged confused words with another rider, who seemed pretty ambivalent to my plight. ("Oh... here's your bar-end, by the way. I'm-a keep riding."
Slowly, things started to fall into place.

"Alright...I should figure out where exactly on this trail I am, so I can shortcut it back to the van and....
VAN! I have my van here! And I know where it is! It's in...that parking lot! By the field! Okay...I should look at that map to see if there's a faster way ba...
MAP! I have a map in my pocket!"
I pulled it out.

This place really does rule. It's the Warrior Creek of the Midwest.
I'll be back.


I found my trail instantly. Knew which direction I was headed and found the loop where my van was parked.
Then I read the words at the top of the map.
"Nashville, IN"

My legs went weak again and I felt tears in my eyes.... because... I was in... Indiana? Wh...why...
Why the fuck was I in Indiana?!

I had to sit down again.

Then I rallied. Fuck it. Let's just get back to the van and figure it out then.
By the time I got there, I had it pretty well in hand. A flowing cascade of thought opening door after door of memory. The van. I was in the van because I was traveling. I'd left Kentucky yesterday and was making my way to Madison, WI to see Tobie. As for why I was in Indiana?  I mean... it's almost no wonder I didn't know why. Because... there was no real rhyme or reason to my being there. It was just... where I ended up. Colonel Segal had mentioned good riding in the vicinity. So... That's where I headed.
And the very nature of the trip was... getting lost.

Boom. I got this shit.

This one is for Chris. Because he just informed me that too much werds without pikture isn't kool.
Dam. Bekuz werds is all I hav.


My kit was torn and bloody. Which sucked, because that was one of my favorites. Hey Chrome! Send me new! And my helmet, while still togetherish, was cracked all the way through in multiple places. When the handlebar caught on the tree, I had been slammed instantly to the ground... landing on my right side and TKOing myself in a pretty big way.

Concerned phone calls began to roll in.
My mom: "Are you ok, angel? I'm worried." (Sheeesh. Yeah, Mom.... I'm fine. (I hope))
My doctor cousin: "You definitely have a concussion. Don't be an idiot and hit your head again anytime soon. In my professional opinion... that would be really dumb." (Like... how dumb?)
Dorrit: "I'll be there in 9 hours." (That's fucking crazy. Don't do that. Wait... did you hit your head?)
My sister: "Not to freak you out...but judging by everything I've read online... blood is currently pooling in your brain and you are dying as we speak. Seriously." (...thanks, Jeannie...)

I changed, showered at the campground... and drove into Nashville, IN to eat some food at the brewery I'd stumbled upon last night... when I'd rolled into town expecting to find a Cracker Barrel Town. Instead I found this bizarre wonderland of young people and dogs. And tourists. I asked the pretty barmaid "Hey... quick question: Um... what the fuck is this place?" She laughed and explained that it's an artist community. And the closest thing to  "mountain town" that IN has. So people stick around. Huh. Well... I liked it. At least. I was pretty content sitting there with a beer and watching people.
When I rolled in this time, the place was insanebonkerstown. My temporal awareness was blown by travel and I'd forgotten that it was now the weekend. It was like trying to drive down the strip at Myrtle Beach during Labor Day weekend.
So... I turned around and drove toward Columbus, IN instead, deciding that it would probably be wise to get myself checked out. Especially since I was absolutely going to have a beer with dinner. And as far as I know... you're not supposed to drink when you have a concussion.
The Urgent Care place said they couldn't do anything for me and I should probably try the ER. "Fuck that. I'm not going to the ER, damnit." So I pulled up to another brewery and wolfed down a jagerschnitzel. Tentatively ordered a beer... and waited to see if I died.

In the meantime... I was blown away by this town too. There were a number of funky and unique little restaurants and businesses. A boutique hotel. And LGBT Pride banners hung along lampposts in the downtown.... alongside Domestic Violence Awareness Banners. How is it... that Columbus, IN... was more progressive than fucking Greensboro? Because it was.

Part of this entire trip... was trying to get some perspective on why Greensboro drains me the way it does. And why I look wistfully and yearningly at... everywhere. And why I refuse to grow roots.
And I'd like to say that I found that. But I can't. Instead... I returned more lost than ever. Riding in on the wake of that giant wave of melancholy... the one that always looms.

But we're not there yet.

That night I stayed at a Red Roof somewhere north of Columbus. Partly because there was no camping to be had anywhere... and if I was dying (thanks, Jeannie)... I didn't want to pass quietly into the night in some random abandoned parking lot and be that guy. And partly because La Dorita made me. I showered again... basking in the hot water... watched shitty hotel TV. And passed out...

I woke up with the most intense head-ache I've ever had. Moving quickly hurt. Everywhere.
I was ok.
But I was sufficiently sobered. I've never hit my head that hard before. Not enough to shake my memory loose and make my entire brain reboot.
But, I mean...at the same time, I feel like my memory is always fucked.
(Walk out of the house and realize I forgot my jacket. Walk back in... grab a bike. Realize I already have a bike outside. Bring bike back in. Forget why I'm standing in the house. Grab a backpack and try to put it on. Realize I'm wearing a bag already. But bag down and grab bike. Walk outside and realize....)
So... there's that.

Thinking...
Even when thinking hurts.

I made coffee in the parking lot and started my progress up toward Madison, WI, where I'd sup with Tobie DePauw and we'd sprawl our thoughts across life, love and the bicycle industry...
....and how we could maybe save it. The bicycle industry, I mean.

We could try, anyway.