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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Get Lost Or Die Trying: chapter dead

"You ever get blown off?"
I lifted my head and turned his way.
"Sorry?" I said. Unsure if I'd missed some chunk of context... or if I was being very bluntly and awkwardly propositioned. 
"You ever have someone... just, like... bail on you?"
I looked at him. Mid 30's. A round ruddy face. Tweed driving cap perched upon curly reddish hair. 
"Yeah," I said. "I have."
I'd been fading in and out of the conversation. In that weird limbo of seeking proximity to people but also seeking respite. I wanted to be near them... but didn't really want to engage. He'd been talking to me fairly steadily for the past 15 minutes. I'd been only present for only about three of them, max. The rest of the time I was lost to my own head doing what it does. Watching shades of people move around the room. Watching them shine or quicken.  Fade or slow. 
Or looking at my phone in the universal gesture of "not really into talking at the moment." 
He was undeterred. 

"She won't even talk to me. You know? Like... won't answer her phone... won't respond to emails... nothing." Shaking his head.

"That's pretty intense," I said. Watching his ghosts... Wondering only absently what the story was... 

Meanwhile catapulted into my own.

Yeah... I'd been blown off before.

Insert topically unrelated picture here to break up word clusters and make reading more palatable for people.
(artwork by Stephen Hayes and ganked from my recent feature in Dirt Rag. Subscribe, fools. )

There was only a very small part of me that momentarily wondered what it is that makes some people open up to total strangers in this way. The rest of me understood. 
Maybe some level of anonymity. Maybe the kind of thing he wouldn't, and likely couldn't, admit to friends....whether because of embarrassment or the politics of friendship. The kind of thing he didn't want to pay to tell a shrink... but needed to get out there. 
Keeping it inside... was tearing him up. 
So why not the stranger on the stool next to him.
Even as the arch-duke of public oversharing, I got that. 

And while I just wanted to drink my beer in peace...  And didn't really want to play drunk-therapy to a stranger in a Memphis bar... I turned on my stool toward him and asked the question:

"So what happened?"

Meanwhile... Somewhere in Texas... 

The rocks in Palo Duro were sun baked and warm. I gingerly placed my bruised face and cheek against the cliff wall; An admittedly bizarre rite that has meaning only for me... but is undoubtedly absurd looking to any casual observers. 
But there were no observers. Just me.
There was bustle below, in the base of the canyon. A running race. Oddly enough, almost twenty years ago... in another life...back when I fancied myself an Ultra-Runner... I'd passed through Palo Duro before and encountered the exact same race. 
Whatever the movement below... up here there was no one. Just a warm breeze. I sat on the ledge and stared out into the gap. Trying to soak in as much of this as I could. Filling stores that might get me through the next few months. 

After my ride yesterday, I'd prepared to leave. To drive roughly an hour or so away to another state park. Part of the same canyon system, but more remote. But sunset was coming. And the chances of my making it to the next park in time to see it were slim. And I didn't want to be somewhere on the road when it happened. So I decided to hang out. Watch it from here. Set off after dark. Pull in late. 

Parking near the bathhouse, looking for a shower to clean off the red patina of dust that covered me from head to toe, a man approached me. "You the guy looking for a spot to camp?"
Indeed I was. The campground was full. The footrace. People from all over. Hence my arrangement to camp elsewhere. But someone had overheard me talking in the park office and word had spread. 
"You can just park with me, man" he said.
Well damn.

His name was Russell. He was a nurse in Waco. That night we sat by his fire and talked about running. About fatherhood. About the challenges we face and the pride we feel when we watch our children become their own person. He told me about the day his daughter came out as a lesbian. About her trepidation to tell him... afraid of his rejection. About his own complicated and complex feelings about it, and about his overwhelming pride in and love for her.
He turned in early. And I sat by the fire a little longer with some bourbon...and with my own complicated and complex feelings about things. And eventually crawled in my van and slept.

The next morning, after drinking my coffee and eating my O's, I set off to find more sun and rock. Even though some of the trails would be off limits tomorrow, I'd ride the ones that weren't. Climb to the rim of the canyon again and follow the narrow path I'd seen up there.

Those Yonder Journal boyz are pretty damned funny. 

You obstinate fucker.
I... am gigantic.
(and, incidentally, very funny)

(and according to sources... a selfie obsessed tween girl)
rightly so...
Interlude: A brief word on selfies. 
It's not vanity. I know it seems absurd, but it really isn't. Vanity implies self-love. There's nothing like that happening here, I assure you.
I'm sure it's partly my mom's fault. Some early lecture when we were kids about how film was expensive and if we were really going to take a million pictures of the backyard, to at least put someone in the picture. And she's not wrong.
I can't imagine a scenario where I ever add to the world's store of great landscape photos. Because real photographer I am not. I'm just a moron riding my bike and snapping brief, shitty pictures with my phone. So I tend to put other shit in the pictures. People. And because I'm a lone-ferret... I often tend to be the only person around to put in the picture.
And I mean... Look at the picture above. Now... remove me. Sure, it's a pretty rock and all... but it's also a pretty fucking boring photo.

Yeah... we all look stupid taking pictures of ourself. And yeah...we all have that one friend. The one whose Instagram feed is a thousand iterations of the same picture. And looks like this...

Yeah, I fully committed to this...
It took almost ten minutes... which was entirely too many. 
But that's less vanity and more... a cry for help. Trying, in a very lost way, to figure out who they are. As cringeworthy as that is, I get it.
And come on... even the most self-despising of us still has a morbid fascination with seeing photos of ourselves, whether we admit it or not. A "is that really what I look like?" thing.

Do I look like this?"

"Or like this?"

(Speaking of which.... You know what sucks? When someone looks at a particularly terrible photo and says "Oh! This is a good one of you!")
And you realize... how the rest of the world views you... and that you truly are as unattractive as you feared.

Also, for whatever the reason... selfies tend to get the most likes on Instagram. Who the fuck knows why?

Back to Texas...

After exploring every nook of the canyon I could, I sat in the sun and drank a beer... and reluctantly... started east. Unsure where I would even end up that night.
Driving down a random street in Oklahoma City, looking for coffee, I spotted a tree full of bikes. The first indication that maybe something beyond my scope was happening here.

Who knows what sets us off? What flicks the switch inside our brains? What starts the unraveling? Sometimes it's circumstance. Absence. Proximity. Sometimes emotion. Sometimes confusion. Sometimes an exploded burrito.
Whatever the case, I was beginning my unraveling.

I hear that epileptics have a thing called an "aura." This thing they see or feel before the onset of a seizure. While I can't say I've ever experienced a seizure... not in any traditional sense, at least... I think I know a little about these auras. I call them "clouds." And I know when they're building. You can feel it. The light in your vision changes. Like there's a filter over it. Your air gets heavy. Thunder rumbles inside you.

And then the lightning arcs through your head.

It's difficult to explain. But if you know, you know. And while most nights I can outdrink it... alcoholic torpor crossing the finish-line before suicidal ardor... some nights you get beat. And tonight... if I didn't surround myself with people, then I'd likely lose sight of my life-lines. Whether I wanted to or not. Storms a comin'.

So I drove past my would-be campground. Into Tulsa. Up to the bar at Prairie Brewing. Where I sat and...thought. Surrounded by, but not engaging people.
From there, I wandered up the busy street... to a bar called the Sound Pony. Noise and chaos. A band. An aggressive woman.

Tulsa. My experience was fleeting, to say the least. A moment in time.
But head-space aside... I liked it. There was bustle and energy. Young people.
Greensboro... sometimes it seems to be the most bizarrely devoid of young people place I've ever seen. At least... young people like me.
(Editor's note: Watts... firstly, you are fucking 40. Whether or not you conduct yourself like a goddamned 16 year old, you are not young. Secondly..."like you?" More people like you is a fucking nightmare. Think "world destruction.")
I admit... The Sound Pony might be my favorite bar in the country right now. That... is a big deal.

The only picture I took at Sound Pony that even kind of turned out. 

And this is part of why I get lost. Finding those pins on a map that you'd have never considered. Finding the extraordinary in the mundane. In so many ways, it helps me get a better perspective on my own town. The one I bitch about all the time. Make the comparisons. Why do I like fucking Tulsa, OK more than Greensboro? What did it have that we really don't? it all really just me? Because here I was, on the road... doing that thing that supposedly makes me happy... and still battling demons. Not to be too terribly trite... but "wherever you go, there you are" has some truth to it.
If you visited me in Greensboro, I could make shit look great. Take you on a great ride. Eat at a great restaurant. Drink at a great bar. Hang out at a great bike shop. (The owner's a psycho, though.)

Still... Tulsa.

I ate some breakfast at Bramble. Bloody Marys and coffee. More coffee at Dilly Diner. Then headed off. To Bentonville, AR. I'd gotten rained out before, but the weather looked quite fine. I pulled into town and having ridden SlaughterPen, went to find the Back 40; one of the newer trails being cut there.
It proved a bit elusive... the first time the MTB Project App has let me down in the least. Taking me to random points in various neighborhoods and saying "you're here!" Here being someone's house. Or a gravel road.
Finally, I figured it out and started riding... immediately coming up on a Westy parked on the side of the road. There I met Dawn... who was doing the same thing I was... tooling around the mid-west, but in reverse. She'd had problems finding the trailhead too... hence parked on the side of the road.
She gave me intel on other places to check out... became my Instafriend... and I set off to ride the Back 40.

Post ride, I walked down to Pedaler's Pub for a beer and curry fries. But was super bummed to discover they were closed. After an early dinner at Tusk and Trotter, I stopped in for a red-eye at the fascinating Onyx, and I saw a stray social media post from Mike Ferrentino that they were at the Pedaler's Pub. Well shit. I'd intended to ninja camp further down the road, but what the hell... I walked down and crashed Bike's private party.

The owner of Pedaler's Pub. Who has a damned good thing going here.

Bryce and the Butcher.
This is not a photograph.
Then I crashed at the Bike house one more time.
The next morning, ordering a coffee at Onyx, the pretty barista smiled and said, "Watts, right?"
Huh. I was already a regular.

Bentonville is another one of those bizarre, unique pins on the map. And my feelings about it are conflicted. And not just because of the time I got copped. The riding is excellent. A good mix of fast, flow and tech. Take your rigid SS. Take your XC bike. Take your Trail bike (whatever the fuck that even means anymore). The food and drink is superb. Tusk and Trotter. Pedaler's Pub. Pressroom. Onyx. The Hive.

But all of it... is Walmart affluence. And regardless of however much has been invested in making Bentonville the cultural hub that it is... it's all still built on Walmart's aggressive destruction of culture in every other pocket of the country.
So yay for Bentonville and all the trails and food and art and pretty baristas and shit.
But it comes at the expense of worker's rights and cultural identity everywhere else. And that kind of sucks.

Fuck. You. Walmart.

Again... Random picture to break up the words. 

From Bentonville to Memphis. To a bar. Where a stranger told me his story.

"So what happened?"

And the answer was... he didn't know. She just... disappeared. Stopped texting. Stopped emailing.
It was already complicated, he said.  There were...other people involved. And got messy. "You know?"
Yeah... I knew.  I knew pretty fucking well.

"What if... she's just... done with me?" he asked. Not because I had an answer for him, but because he just needed to say it out loud.
I answered anyway. "What if she isn't? What if... she's just dealing with her own shit? Processing in her own way Maybe... that's how she copes with shit. Shuts down for a while. I... I've... known people like that."
"I... Maybe?" He paused. "I just want to talk to her, you know? Figure out where she's at. If she's ok."
"Yeah, man. I know."
"You think... I should keep trying? Or do you think that will just push her away?"
"Fuck... man, that's not really something I can answer. But... for what it's worth... it's what I'd do. Even if it wasn't the right thing. Sometimes... you can't help it."
"What if she... never speaks to me again?"
"What if she does? Man... I don't know you. And you don't know me. But personally? I'd rather feel stupid for chasing the things I want... than feel stupid for not chasing them. And if you want her. You tell her. Even if she can never want you the same way. And even if... you don't know if she can hear you."
He sighed. Stared into his glass. I did the same. Both of us a thousand miles away from some stool in a bar.

Once upon a time... after picking myself up off a bloody bathroom floor... I made a promise. That from that point on, I would chase the things I want and feel... at all costs.

To live any other way... seems tantamount to being dead.

Me? I'm kind of done being dead for a while.