Friday, December 2, 2016

Get Lost or Die Trying (part two-ish)

I woke up next to water.

The van door flung open to the elements. A warm wind rustled the trees. It felt... almost tropical. Like morning on an island. My head hurt. Possibly from the whiskey that had finally brought me a merciful three hours of sleep. But definitely from the fight I'd gotten into that night. Fisticuffs and shouting. Wrestling on the ground. My tender right hand the evidence. Along with my tender cheekbone. The one that brought on a wave of nausea and made cracking noises when I pushed at it too hard. Who did I fight? Memories of some ugly fucker. Sad, uneven eyes. Exaggerated, cartoonish features. Long in limb and twisted in spine. Belligerent and frothing. Wild and flailing.
Splashing water on my face...I saw him in the mirror.


I need help.

I was at a state park outside of Tulsa. A lake. Muddy brown water tossed into swells by the wind.
I made coffee and sat in the door of my van. Let the warmth blow in. Took in the sky. Bright blue with pink and white clouds.  A good sky.

And I did what I do... Stared into space and let my brain go where it does. Watched Oklahoma unfold. Its history. Its people. Its ghosts. Its gravity.
A melodrama of bodies and conflicts far removed from the RV's at my back. This confused feeling of sympathy and sadness at the evolution our wandering ethos has taken. Frontier spirit gone awry. Every inane comfort of home dragged with us wherever we go. Sprawling houses on wheels with showers and toilets and carpet and pets and patio furniture. Cats staring hungrily from the doors of their prisons on wheels. Golfcarts and mobility chairs dragged along to enable our bodily decline. Decline brought on not from the tax of scrapping and scraping and living with some desperate frenzy. The frenzy that I feel every day...
But a decline...of effort. Succumbing to the inertia of content. Defeated by our own tendency toward sloth.
Native people displaced and eradicated from the region so that corpulent white Christians who don't even believe their own lies can drive a motor boat on the water. Like Jesus.

With a long sigh, I pulled my shit together and set off to find some breakfast in town... and ultimately keep moving.


Van-ity. Get it?
(kill me)

While there is undoubtedly a heart buried somewhere beneath the blanket of trees that covers the eastern side of the country. Hidden and dense. One that beats and beckons with wood and green.
It's not mine. somewhere dry and sparse. Exposed and and vulnerable. Red in rock and coarse in temperament.
I've felt its pulse since I first saw those rocks...saw that sky...however long ago. Something inside me beating in time.
That I live so very far a source of much angst.
But then...what fucking isn't for me?

I'd spent the last two nights in Palo Duro Canyon. Soaking up the sun and sky... and riding everything I could, multiple times. It's a good trail system. A mixture of fun and flat. Fast, and challenging. Rocky climbs to the canyon rim. I saw rattlesnakes. Big horn sheep. Tarantulas. Descending one trail, a roadrunner leapt out of a bush behind me, bounded off my helmet and up onto a rock ledge ahead. It was...amazing.
If I could have... I'd have stayed in the Canyon longer. Stayed with the stars and the moon. With the red rocks. The ones I'd set off in search of in the first place. The ones I'd driven 2400 miles for. At least partly. There were other reasons I was out here. But they're complicated. Hard to qualify.
But then...what fucking isn't for me?


When I travel in my van... rarely is my evening still. Rarely do I get to watch the sunset from my settled camp. Rarely do I get to sit by a fire and watch the stars come much as I always promise myself that I will. More often than not, that's when I'm moving. Having spent the day doing whatever it was I wanted to do... riding bikes, wading in water, basking in sun, sitting and watching the ghosts... Once the sun sets... I set off. Driving past evening, into the night. Pulling into my next destination in the dark. Often late. With time to lock up the knives, and drink however much bourbon is required to finally sleep. And as much as I may lament missing a lazy dusk... sitting and reading (something about seafaring, hopefully).... Waking up somewhere new is enlivening in ways I can't describe. Opening the curtains to find out where I am. Wake up to this...

Though if I'm at Switchgrass and Lake Wilson in Kansas, I will likely always try to find this spot.

From rainy Bentonville, I'd driven north... chasing the sun. In that way that I do.

Once... long ago, traveling in Washington State... we picked up some hikers trying to get back to their car. Throwing their bags in the back, we drove them toward wherever they were parked. Winding through lush green hills, we talked about the beauty of the region, and I casually mentioned my love for sunshine and were I to live here, the potentially hard time I might have with the seeming preponderance of cloudy days in the region. One of the hikers, a woman likely about my current and pretty... said something along the lines of "Well...that's what happens when your sunlight comes from outside rather than inside."
"Fuck you" I said.
I didn't, really. But I wanted to.
Whatever she thought she meant, she was still right. There's no sun inside of me. There's no dawning and dappling light shining from within. No pleasant warmth.
Just split atoms. A blast furnace. A supernova. Maybe even a black hole. Deadly heat and radiation. Crushing gravity.
That's not something you let shine.
So yeah... I shield the outside from my inside... and chase my external sun instead. All the time.
Fuck you.

Hey Tulsa...You Ok.
get it? because...OK?
(...kill me)

As I headed into Kansas... toward Wilson Lake and Switchgrass... and the cloud cover dissipated into the blue I needed, I detoured from the pavement and drove into Emporia on gravel roads. I stopped in and had a beer with fellow heathen, Kristi Mohn of Dirty Kanza at Mulready's Pub. Tim was headed to Lawrence to play a show with his band. And while I considered driving that way... an extra hour in the wrong direction after all of the driving I was already doing was hard to swallow, as badly as I wanted to see them play. After getting a tour of Kristi and Tim's soon-to-open cycling and lifestyle store, I walked over to Radius brewing for a beer and the best fucking Mac and Cheese I have ever fucking had.

I'd considered boon-docking in the van behind Mulready's. Riding Dirty gravel the next day. But I went ahead and drove to Switchgrass. Pulling into a deserted campground at midnight. Somehow into the same spot I'd pulled into late one night last year. The best spot, incidentally.
That night, I froze. Every blanket and sheet and towel I had piled on top of me. Sure, I could have put on clothes, but that was more effort.
In the morning, I sipped my coffee... watched the sky change... and thought about the land. I like Kansas. Particularly this region. I thought about the way places have their own...power. Pull. Magic. I thought about native Americans and what this place must have meant to them when they first found it. The cliffs and bluffs. Rolling hills in a predominantly flat area. I thought about the pull of water. I thought about how I totally fucked up in my Dirt Rag article when I talked about the region...and said "limestone" when I meant "sandstone."

Finally.... I got riding.
Taking a thorn less than a half-mile in, I turned around and ran back to the van. Yeah, I had tubes, but if I'd already hit one thorn, I was going to hit others. Wilson lake isn't like the rest of Kansas. It's practically high desert. There's cactus and wild artichoke. And like in Oklahoma... these fuckers.

Hey Oklahoma... Fuck you!
So I filled my tire with Stan's and put too much pressure in there. Yeah, I got a bunch of android blood in my face for the first couple hundred yards. And yeah, occasionally I'd hear the seal break, and I'd spin the tire until it resealed. And once or twice in the first few miles, I had to pump it back up a few PSI. But after that? It was done. And that seal has held for the past 30 days of riding.

Grade A android blud.

Me and all my friends.

After a few hours of riding loops at Switchgrass, I headed south. Toward Palo Duro. Through the panhandle of Oklahoma. Stopping in some dunes to watch the sun go down. Attacked by spiky death balls and tracking sand into the van.

Is my face swollen and bruised? Or distorted by the camera?
Could be either?

I stopped at a bizarre brewery/steakhouse on the edge of Amarillo. Drank passable beer. Ate salty things. And pulled into the canyon...again at midnight. The next morning, for one of the first times in my life... even the clouds couldn't quell the pleasant warmth I had inside me. I was where I wanted to be. Where I'd set off for. And even with the knowledge that the melancholy would press in soon enough... and I'd face some demons in time... I was happy.

Oh man! Another sweet van pic!

I rode all day. From the moment the sun melted the clouds and peaked over the canyon the moment it fell below it. And afterward, sitting in door of the van...drinking a beer and ignoring the flies... along with the lovely ache in my legs, I could still feel that warmth inside. I missed people. And wished they were there. But even with the ache of absence, I was happy. The blast furnace at an easy burn. 
At least for the moment. 
In a day or two it would quicken its pulse and try to consume me. 
But then...what the fuck doesn't?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Get Lost or Die Trying: part one(ish)

I felt a hand on my arm... gentle but firm. Insistent. Confident. I turned to find a woman smiling down at me from her perch on the bar. Her fingers traced their way along my bicep. Then she grabbed my shirt and pulled me toward her... again, gentle but firm... leaned her head in and whispered something in my ear. It was impossible to hear anything. I cocked my head to the side and gave her a quizzical look. She tried again, her lips brushing my ear...still holding my arm. Something that sounded like "you're all ripply." I smiled politely... shook my head in negation of comprehension... shrugged... and turned away...back toward the band.
They were good. And they were having fun. Enjoying themselves. I...was trying to. But my head wasn't in a good place. (surprise!) Which was partly why I was here... in this crowded bar... among strangers. Trying to avoid being alone; a thing that typically...I gravitate towards. Even when my head turns against me. But this was one of those nights... where my reset buttons weren't working. And there was that chance... that if left to my own devices... I would be that body found in a van in the woods. So I was here.. among all the bodies, distracting myself with their chaos and fractal turbulence.

The hand on my arm again... pulling me back toward the body it was attached to. This time as she leaned in and whispered inaudible nonsense in my ear, she planted a soft kiss on my bruised cheek.

Perfume and smoke.

I pulled back... and sized her up, still smiling down at me from her perch. She was about my age. Maybe older. But barely. A white button down shirt open to reveal... a lot. A jaunty fedora perched on her head. Pretty, to be sure. The kind of woman that men pay attention to. But... even if I was interested or available...not my type. Certainly not who I wanted. Not who I thinking about. Not what I was looking for.

Which begs the fair question: what the fuck was I looking for? Why was I standing in a cycling themed bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma... too many drinks in... desperately avoiding myself... and fending off the very aggressive advances of a drunk woman?

It has something to do with this.

No wait...


By this time, I'd been on the road for over a meandering quest to get as far west as I could before needing to turn back. My white whale being red rocks. My magnetic north fixed by the sun. My fluid course set by what moved me. Even being nearby would make the trip worth it. A moment of orbit... caught in gravity...before being hurled back. Where would it take me?

No. Fucking. Clue.

It's not that I'm anti-plan. It's just...that plans and I have a bad history. Like...broken glass and stitches kind of history...
So I circle them warily. I'll make eye contact... maybe give them a nod... but I won't shake hands, Much less get naked with them.
Ahem... regardless of what you think.

Hence the "plan" to make it to Knoxville that first evening to sup with Greggers somehow transforming into parking my Van in Chris and Shanna's driveway for three days and fucking around in Asheville for the 5 Points Film Festival.
I guess it's kind of what happens when you and your van stumble across a "Van Life" rally less than three hours into your trip.

I wish that I'd gotten some decent photos of the vanlife thing. Something I could share with you that was worth a fuck. That would show you the width and breadth of the vehicles there. But alas... this is what I have...


Hi Edward.

A compelling argument for acid, to be sure. 

And there you have it. What?! It was dark and I just wanted to look... invite myself into other people's vans for a drink... not try to add to the world's store of shitty pictures.

And to be honest? Mine was kind of more better anyway.

Afterward, I drove to Chris and Shanna's... parked in the wrong driveway for a bit... reparked... drank whiskey in my van, and passed I tend to do. The next morning, I met up with the venerable Benedict Ultraturboromantic for some breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe, where after being recognized by our waiter ("I know you guys, right?" uhhhh)... we sprawled our talk across quill stems... trolls... straight-edge... past iterations of us... what it means to be genuine... relationships... real love... South Park... technology... bicycle touring... roots... haters... foraging... seafaring... Krishna-core... and friendship, loyalty, and commitment (see real love)...
And then we walked around West Asheville for a while, sat and drank coffee,(too much) macha, (aka: grass)... instafaced, interneted...and then set off to tour the Industry Nine.

Inside this nub of metal is a purple hub, just waiting to be born... 


When giant fans...

the way she teases them
it's such a shame
she got all the huboons crying her name
soo pawls... soo pawls...

Bye buddy.
(The briefest of words on Poppi;
the dude is bonafide...farce and all.) 

Bene was there because his Specialized Adventurethingy film was on the roster for the film festival and he was supposed to give a little talk afterward. While it would have been cool to stay for that, I needed to get moving. So we parted ways... him to go VIP it up... me to drive more wester.

Though...heh... as it happened... with very little prodding from Chris and Shanna, I acquiesced to hanging out for the first night. Which turned into another night. Which turned into Dorrit asking if she could tag along. Which turned into attending the whole film-festival. You know... as super VIPs. We ubered it to the pre-party, met up with BoltarRomancehead, (oh hai again) Brice Minnigh and Joey Shusler, who were presenting their amazing Trail To Kazbegi... and others... Then piled into our VIP limo to go see some films.

VIP pick-up-truck bed.

The hosts with the mosts.

Cross is coming. Just don't get it in our eyes? 

Screen Shotz 4 lyfe.
photocred: Dirty

are you stalking me?

Sunday morning... only the slightest bit hungover, and I was finally moving west, stopping in Knoxville to visit an extremely hungover Greggers. Where we rode bikes and ate dinner, talking about secrets, triumphs and nadirs... and making pinky promises over margaritas. And where unlike the last time we supped together, I didn't tell him I was going to fucking punch him in his fucking face.
(Sorry buddy. I'm...volatile.)

Onward. Waking up somewhere outside of Nashville, where I found trails (and every spider in the world). And on to Little Rock for dinner and sleep. And on to find more trails. Somewhere.
As I tried to make my way toward the WOMBLE trail in Arkansas, a rider I bumped into at a gas station told me to go ride Iron Mountain instead. So I did. It was a fun trail...easy and bermy... fast and flowy... and with more miles than I'd expected. I liked that.

No. You're right. This picture was not worth the time or the effort.

It went nowhere, in case you're wondering. 
Made my first Instagram "story."


Got mocked for my first Instagram "story."

I'm NOT a tween girl, Stevil. I'm a tween person!
(love you, homie)
From the beginning, I'd had one fixed position in mind; Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. How I got there was fluid. And where I went from there the same. There was talk (among me and the... you know... ghosts) of making it in to New Mexico. But it depended on... things.
My roughish intent tonight was to make it to Bentonville. I was craving curry fries and a beer at the Pedalers Pub. And a stray social media post told me that the Bike Mag crew was there doing their Bible of Bike Tests. So I asked Mike Ferrentino if I could crash the party for a night.

I remember when Bike Mag first came out. Surfer Magazine had just done a make over... this sort of...paring down. At a time when everything was getting garish. Bike was along the same lines. Pared down. Simple. And I would read stories by guys like Mike and Rob Story and Vernon Felton and think... "that was a fucking legitimately good story."
It was an early realization that bike journalism could be... more than just stupid fucking bikes.

Pretty much.
(photo ganked from Bikemag)

What 'dis?
(photo ganked from bikemag)

Years later...I would write for Bike. Pieces that I'm embarrassed to look at now. (Sorry, Vernon.) That was what? 15 years ago? Aren't we all a little embarrassed by who we were at age 25? Less so than our 25 year old selves are embarrassed by our 40+ year old selves? Or than our 40 year old selves are embarrassed by our 40 year old selves? (Much shame...)

I pulled in late that night. Had a few beers with Bike people. And passed out in the van.
The next morning brought rain. Likely two days of it. And it was cloudy and rainy in Palo Duro. So heading due west didn't make sense. And after sitting around too long debating my course of action... I chased the sun. Which was north. I could head toward Wilson, Kansas. Ride Switchgrass. Then dip down into Amarillo with the sun. And if the sun changed directions. So would I.

For some people...routine is comforting. Riding the same trail every day....or running familiar neighborhood loops... fills and sustains them. It's...enough. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, it's a critical. It's what allows us to root down and create. Grow. That idea I love that idea. I do. I've just always felt...separate from it. On the periphery. Feral.
Like that cat. The one that wants you to feed it. And will gladly take your pet. And will even nuzzle my head against your leg. But I don't want to live in the house.
A long time ago...I played like I did. But it was farce. Like when we were in college and we pretended at being old. Did grown-up all have Thanksgiving dinner together. Sweet potato casserole and all. And something inside of me was dying. Or getting sick. Losing it's fucking mind.
The idea...of running the same loop in the same town... or of riding my bike around Hamilton Lakes and down Lake Brandt Rd for another ten years... fills me with the kind of existential dread that makes it hard to function.
But that's less about... things... and more about me. Something wrong with me.
I feel lost when I know what's happening. Like I'm dying.

But when I'm moving...
When I'm... searching...
When I wake up somewhere I don't know. By myself... or next to someone I love...
I don't feel lost at those moments. I feel... right. I feel...alive.

Fuck. I don't know, you...

Live feral or die.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Letting the Light Out

I was surprised to wake up.
It sounds absurd, I know....given how we live or lives: willingly drifting into oblivion every night, ostensibly with the expectation of always waking up... Of always picking up where we left off the next morning.
But... What if...there was no expectation of picking up where we left off? What if that was it? The last night. The last time you closed your eyes and succumbed to that oblivion. Maybe even embraced it.
How would you drift off?
Kicking and screaming? The way children fight sleep?... Something deep inside revolting at the idea of letting go of this day at all costs?

Or with a resigned sigh? Maybe... even a relieved one?

And later, when your eyes slowly opened... to the bathroom floor... and... to blood... all of it...
...wouldn't you be surprised too?

Once, in highschool,..I wrote a long essay on Existentialism. I say long. What I remember as 20 tight but sprawling pages of incisive analysis was more than likely just five doublespaced and over-margined sheets of poorly written shit. I knew almost nothing about existentialism. (It's French, right?) I'd read Camus' The Stranger, partly because the cover art was so compelling... but mostly because it seemed like such an adult thing to intellectual and cultured...

...but I'd failed to understand any of the real themes in the story... my ability to think critically about literature locked in a losing battle with the biological compulsion to try and get naked with girls...

I'd read The Plague, followed by The Fall... and came a little bit closer... but still failed miserably.
And then... I read The Myth Of Sisyphus. And while there was a metric fuckton that I probably didn't get... and still probably don't... all of a sudden, things made sense... The themes of all his work somehow getting past the omnipresence and omnipotence of "blanket time in the field."
All of this talk of "absurdity" and "void" and "taking our clothes off."
Or...was that me?

Sisyphus, doomed by actions in his past life to push a rock up a hill for eternity...always losing his purchase just before the apex and forced to watch the boulder, his current raison d'etre, tumble back to the bottom. Where he would have to begin all over again.


Fuck Everything Ahead.

But that wasn't what stuck with me. We've all known and felt that story press into our lives since...what? second grade? Making it through one miserable day of doing things we didn't want to do...and being powerless to change it..., only to stare down the barrel of a whole life of them...thinking that it never ends. This is the power of myth that "Mean Joe Campbell" was always jabbering about. A story that has all the power of existence complicatedly encased in its simplicity. Abstractions to manifest the ineffable. Or at least give them rough form. Form that the human mind can try to make sense of.

But what resonated...or at least gave me pause...was his take on the struggle. On coping with the fate of some seemingly endless and terrible existence.
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
Is it?
Must one?
His take that there were moments in that hell where Sisyphus found solace. Vista and altitude. Placing his face against the rock... feeling its texture and coolness.

Even if I didn't agree with it all at the time... (you know... as an astute and learned 18 year old)... every sentence in that book was and is thought provoking in all the right ways. The ways that stick with you forever, swirling around in your brain every time you ride your bike... stand in a line... wake to sunshine in your eyes... buy almond milk... lose a friend... slog through a gray day... shop for a stupid fucking dining room table... kiss a girl... tell her you love her... feel her hand slip out of yours as she pulls away... cut yourself open to let all the light out...

I knew the blood was my own.
I didn't want to... but I did. In that way we always do. In that way we wake up everyday...with all the weight we hauled through yesterday still there... waiting to be hauled through today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
As much as we might wish otherwise.

My head...hurt. A long blood crusted knot creased along my scalp, roughly the shape of the edge of a brick.
My entire body was sore. Bruised, it felt, from the inside out. My hand was split open...either from the windows I'd put my fist through... the impact of the car that didn't quite miss me... or from the ground that embraced me...

And my arms... My arms...
They were a mess.

I don't know why I regained consciousness. Maybe something inside clicked back on. Maybe my body decided to make one last ditch effort at survival, to spite my mind.
And...I don't know why I stopped bleeding. There's no reason I should have. Though mostly... I think I simply never finished.
Honestly, I don't like to think about it. Which isn't to say that I don't. All the time. Which isn't to say that every sharp thing I ever hold in my hands doesn't make something inside me tremble. Which isn't to say that sometimes, when people touch my wrists a certain way, that I don't feel a nauseating sting... a sickening tug run up the length of my arm to wrench the insides of my chest.

I'd never seen so much blood.

With the same sudden and impulsive tendency to action that had brought me to the floor... I would pull myself off it... and move toward the door. As quickly and best I could....fighting to stay conscious.
Stumbling in with my arms wrapped in towels...I would tell the nurse that I had tripped over the open dishwasher and cut my wrists on the knives that protruded from the utensil basket. Not caring if she believed me or not. And not caring that I didn't own a dishwasher. She would glue and tape and stitch me together... x-ray my insides and head for internal bleeding... and later, let out a low whistle as she sat across from me and told me that I had "done a real number on myself." And that I was "lucky." She would look at me pointedly and ask if she needed to make a phone-call. I would stare at the floor in silence... until she asked again. And then I would say "No. Please... No. I'm...ok. I am. I just... tripped. I'm ok," offering a teary and tremulous smile as proof. And she would look at me for a long time...her own wheels spinning. She would scribble a name and number on a piece of paper...and tell me that if I promised to call the number, I could go.
It was the number of another doctor...The kind of doctor who handles people who "do a number on themselves."

Later...maybe it was days... maybe it was weeks... I would sit in a a chair...and tell a man barely older than myself... things. Some of it a repetitive litany of things he's likely heard a million times too many... Some of it maybe not so much....
That nothing made sense...that unlike the vanishing scars on my arms, hidden by thick colors, heavy line work and sleeves... there was a hole inside of me that wouldn't close...that it would be better for everyone if I disappeared... that my legacy would always be damage.

I'd tell him... that sometimes... it was too much. Not "it." Not some perceived hardship or circumstance... because let's be honest... as hard as my life can feel... it's a fucking cakewalk. That's never what it's about. No... I meant the other "it." The way "it" diffuses into my life. All the noise and chaos of that much movement and that many voices. I'd tell him... that I couldn't process the ghosts... the first time I'd call them that.

And he would nod... and purse his lips...tap his pencil...make notes...pretend to understand...
...and ultimately...write a prescription.

And for too many months, I would take the pills. For "situational depression." I admit, I laughed at the diagnosis. As if there was any other kind... Situation always being a catalyst to unbalance brain chemistry. Situation always being the impetus for a plunge to nadir...
At the same time feeling a surge of relief at the idea that I was just temporarily out of whack... and not permanently fucked. That maybe ghosts were just one more manifestation of this "situational depression"...even though they've been around forever. And not sure-as-shit proof that I'm out of my fucking mind.

Later...I'd throw all of the pills away. Stop taking them in that way you're never supposed to stop taking pills that affect your brain chemistry. My situational depression depressingly deepened by the situation of those fucking depression pills. An ever present numbness. An apathy that wasn't happiness or unhappiness. Too many apologies to girls for a non-existent libido. ("It's not you... it really is me.")
I would steel myself for the aftermath... and weather it. I'd ride my bike further than before. Throw myself into projects. Do burpees in my living room until even walking up stairs and lifting a spoon hurt. Throw myself into being a father. Know that he was the anchor that was keeping me grounded... know that he was the reason I pulled myself off that floor... know that he was and is the best thing I've ever created in my life. Try to convince myself that my presence in his life was a boon... and not a bane.
And when he was away with his mother...I'd drink myself to sleep and hide the sharp things. Because everyone knows the demons come out at night.

I'd wrestle with a Jekyll and Hyde mentality... focused and committed... reckless and nihilistic. Make it through the days. But I'd still feel... extinguished. Like a light had gone out inside of me.
I'd wrestle with that. What the fuck did I even mean? "A light had gone out?"
Trying to put everything into perspective.


A friend once went on a rant in front of me... about suicide. About how pathetic and selfish it was. He didn't know anything about places I'd been in my life... or maybe he did...but I didn't say anything.
Funnily enough, I'd gone on the same exact rant once...long before. In my own narrow, privileged, selfish and myopic worldview, absolutely failing to understand how anyone could ever want to check out of life.
Until I did.
Until it was all that I thought about.
And until something snapped...and tipped the scales.

And then... I understood too well.

I've always been torn on depression. A part of me knows on a very personal level how real it is. How overpoweringly tangible and substantial a thing it is. And a part of me thinks it's just a symptom of boredom. A self-perpetuating sickness we've inflicted on ourselves with the way we live our lives. Too much of nothing and not enough something. Suburban ennui turned malignant... metastasizing into a cancer of the mind.
When we're engaged in the task of surviving... of truly scrapping to make it through a day...there's no time to be depressed. You're present... thinking critically about how to live from one moment to the next. And when you're doing what you want... chasing what moves you, even when it's hard...there's purpose.
It's in the other moments... the in between times, where we seem to spend most of our lives. Limbo... purgatory... salle d'attente... When you have just enough time to say... "Wait... nothing makes sense. This my life? How can that be? That's when the tumors start to form.
And in some of us... that cancer is more aggressive than in others. Genetics. Diet. Disposition. (And apparently gut fauna? This world...)

While there was and always is a selfish part of me that wanted to run from all the pain I was feeling and creating...the overwhelming feeling I had as I collapsed in my own blood was that this was for the best... that disappearing, even in a traumatic way, was the best outcome for everyone. That no one would have to watch me fall, pick me up, deal with my mess...and ever be hurt by the damage I would inevitably gouge into their lives. That the scar I was about to cause was better than the blast crater I'd leave if I persisted in living.
Selfishly selfless.

Because this wasn't a movie. No angel was going to earn his wings by convincing me that I'd ever do any good in this life. Some people might miss me... but they'd still be better off without me.


We've all lost it at times. Some moment that leads to this cascade of slamming doors in our heads...the normal outlets and rooms of reasoning suddenly blocked...and the course of action becoming this running full tilt down whichever hallway we're shunted into. that moment made manifest. Chased by whatever demons we have down that hallway of slamming doors... a hallway that ends in abyss. At least,,, for me.

I can't say... that I won't always struggle with it. But... I've pause. To reset myself.
You know when you're walking down the street, and for no reason you can think of, you suddenly feel this overwhelming anxiety about that one set of footsteps behind you? Knowing that it's just another hapless moron walking the same direction, but unable to shake some stupid fight or flight panic? So you stop and tie your shoe, or look in a store window, or anything... until the footsteps pass.
It's like that. I let the footsteps chasing me pass. Or I just punch whoever it is in the face. (It's always me, in case you were wondering.) And I've learned...that just because the doors are all slamming shut at that moment, it doesn't mean you have to run full tilt down that hallway. You can stop... sit down. Lean your back against a door, get lost in the grain of the wood on the floor... nod off for a bit... Pass out. Get in bed and pull the sheets over your head for however long you need to. Maybe the doors won't be open when you wake up... but you won't feel that frenzied panic you felt before.
And they might be. One of them at least.

I know... it's infinitely more complicated than that....What goes through our heads as we push our rocks up the mountain. The circumstances... the people... the demons... the damage...
And I know that there is infinitely more to say. But saying this was hard enough. my moment of abstraction. My telling a story to find the meaning in it.
Hoping I'm smart enough to understand the themes... And hoping they're there... and that it's not just a literal story about some scarred wreck lying in a pool of his own blood for no reason.

Fuck it.... Let's get naked together...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Putting Out.

I was picking the kiddo up from camp. Sitting in the car for those few minutes before they were let loose. As far as I knew, Tyler had hit "publish" on the Bike Rumor thing. And I was about to be awash in commentary. Some good. Some bad.
I knew that. And I was ready for it.

But maybe...I wasn't? It had been that kind of week. Mixed with that kind of month. In the midst of that kind of year. The kind of year when even getting out of bed or taking care of basic hygiene can be hard.

Tyler had approached me a little while back and asked if I would be interested in going to a product launch for Specialized on behalf of Bikerumor. It seemed absurd. Not least of which because I own a shop that is NOT a Specialized dealer. But also because I really just don't give a shit about the company or their products. But yeah...sure. I'm pretty much game for anything. And the format of this one was compelling, because it would be for their "Adventure Dispatch" series; a thing I've made relentless fun of, but watched repeatedly. And as a shop that pushes that style of riding, seeing the bikes and meeting the people behind their recent push would be pretty interesting. Or not. But beyond that... two days of riding bikes in Pisgah with other members of the media, as well as the Yonder Journal crew and Ultraromance? Probably catered to the nines?
It sounded fun. Who wouldn't go to that? (Oh, you wouldn't? Bullshit.)

So yeah... I did it.

photo cred: Beth Welliver/Specialized

And then...I wrote about that way that I write about things. With a lot of alcohol in me. And with a lot of cursing, self-deprecation, piss-taking, and inside jokes that only I would understand.

The first comment was pretty tame. Negative, to be sure. But fairly pedestrian.
"Can someone that actually has what it takes to read this terrible feature tell me what it said? I feel like there's an angle here but I can't take this writer."
"Ha." I chuckled to myself... and walked in to get Milo. As we walked out and got back in the car... Milo asking if we could listen to the "African American band with the guy with the great voice" (Bad Brains) and singing a snippet of "I against I"... I read number two. It followed suit. "Ha. Well fuck" I said under my breath... "Whatever..."
Not that I hadn't been expecting a ton of negative feedback. Just that maybe right now wasn't the time for it?
I texted Tyler. "Man. I might not be feeling this today." ...Wondering if it was too late to just take it down. To duck out and be nobody for a little longer. Not because I cared what the pundits had to say... but because maybe I just didn't need a preponderance of them saying anything at the moment...good or bad. Not now.

This was the first thing I'd really written in this fashion since early May. I'd finished my Dirt Rag feature and column... but they wouldn't be out until mid July. And as for the blog? I just.. couldn't. Motivation and time seemed hard to come by. I needed to write about Kanza... but Kanza... was hard.

Number two! Like a giant turd.

I needed to write about the 111k and 55.5k... but they just reminded me of Barnabas.

Number three! Like a... giant...douche.

I needed to write about Barnabas. But that just reminded me... of everything. And just...maintaining became my mission.

BJ... I know, man. 

Sometimes...we're ok. And sometimes the demons are just atoms away from taking us out.
I could feel them... and every comment that rolled in was just one more wall between them and me shattering.
It had been that kind of year.

Writing is hard. If you do it, you know. I mean... it's easy, in that it's just words. And sometimes they come out all too easily. Like so much loose stool.
But sometimes they don't. Sometimes they're elusive. Sometimes they dig in their barbs and pull pieces of you with them.

And outside of any of that... there's the struggle of simply putting the words out there. Because to do so opens you up to being torn apart. Not only that, but it seemingly indicates that you have confidence in them. That you have confidence that what you're saying has merit enough that people should be exposed to it.

Do I have confidence in my words?
Yes? No. Not really? I don't know? It's... a strange thing. Do they entertain? Do they provoke? Then there's merit to them. Are they meaningful? Probably not? At least not to you. And the fact is... I don't write for you. (Though I do surely appreciate you taking the time to read it.)

Do I have the confidence to publicly take the piss out of my friends and the companies they work for?... And even the company I'm supposed to write about?
Yeah. Yeah I do. And it's always done with a smile and a wink...whether anyone gets it or not. Morons. (smile and wink) And my question to them is: Did I hurt your feelings? Or did I make a business decision that potentially compromises your future livelihood? Yeah. So shut up? (smile and wink)

Do I have the confidence to talk candidly and self-deprecatingly about what a train-wreck of a person I am?
Always. We don't talk enough about that kind of thing. Everyone is "fine" all the time. Bullshit.

Do I have the confidence to put myself out there?... In such a way that I could potentially be torn to shreds?
Hmmm. You misunderstand. It's not about confidence. It's just...about... not being scared. Less about thinking there's merit to what I do or say, and more about being unafraid to do or say it. Unafraid to be good or bad...right or wrong...liked or hated. Just being... me.

I think... that when you've tried to die... one of the biggest realizations you come to is that in the end, among a life of infinite regrets... the regret of not putting yourself out there far exceeds the regret of doing so. Taking certain risks and reaching for certain things, even if you don't quite know what they really are, is more meaningful than not. Most especially when you realize how meaningless most of what we do with our lives is. What's left to be afraid of?
Ridicule? Being alone? Pain? Shiiiit. That's called yesterday. Welcome to tomorrow.

Which brings us to the real question: Do I have the confidence to anonymously call someone I've never met and honestly don't know at all a "pathetic narcissist" in the comments section of some bike-tech cycling forum?
No. I admittedly do not. Because...Why?

And we all know that if I ever did, it would read: "This guy might even be more of a pathetic narcissist than me."

Incidentally, here's a compendium of the effusive commentary that was cast my way.

"Oh look... the children have discovered swearing. (Slow hand clap) Utter rubbish, Bikerumor. Expect much more of you folks."
- "carlos"

"Worst. Review. Ever. Please no more. Having actual factual information in the review is helpful."
- "GB"

"So many thumbs down"
- "b_p_t"

"Far too much time trying to sound "edgy" far too little actual information. And that head-punching thing doesn't exactly establish credibility.
- "steev"

And then, among the deleted comments (though not by me. I deleted nothing (save for a positive review because my fucking finger slipped. Doh)):

"Ten paragraphs into this crap and he's still going on about himself. I'm out."
- "the badavist"

"Just when you think bike bro culture couldn't get any more insufferable you stumble across this piece that is written/seemingly vomited onto a keyboard about a bike that's made for a bunch of tatted-up weenie-havers (presumably tbh I didn't read any more than the 1st paragraph."
- "judy butter"

"It's like the Radavist stumbled into the Bikerumor party and puked a bunch of half-digested word salad over everything.
- "hurf durf"

"Jesus H Christ this makes John Prolly seem like Seymour Hersh. 10 paragraphs in and this guy is the dude at the campfire who wants to tell you about how he got his tattoos even though you didn't ask. I'm out.
- "the badavist"

"Is this supposed to read like a "Diet Radavist" article?? @80... I agree. This writer actually typed out 'like' wayyyy too many times and I rage quit pretty quickly into this article.
- "Whaaaa?"

And then my all time favorites

"people who don't read shouldn't write, and from reading that guy's piece it's pretty clear he doesn't read very often.
- "the biz"

"It's like nonconformity meets conformity to pay the bills. Drink PBR, support corporate scum. Pick a  side man and be on it. Otherwise you're just fake. You're pop punk. You're hot topic. Plastic nonsense folks. This is the worst write up I've ever read. Pure crud."
- "Rick"

Did I reel a little? Sure. Did I require a lot of bourbon in my person that evening? Yeah. Did dorita need to pet my head and tell me that I'm good enough, smart enough, and that doggone it, people liked me? Maybe. Did my son have to ask me what I was sobbing about? No. But in this joke, totally.

Will I do it again?
Yeah. Of course. Maybe next time I can get even more people to unfriend me on facebook. One can certainly endeavor.

A portrait of the fartist as a pathetic, narcissistic, insufferable paragon of bro bike culture. (see "weenie-haver")