Friday, March 27, 2015

Frostbukake Part One: Baiting the Public

Prelude: baiting the public (an epistle to the tyrants... noncanonical)
Sometimes... the veil slips...
...and you get a glimpse of what's behind it.
And you see that beneath the veneer of all that smiling positive benevolence and seemingly amicable humility... there's something toxic.
And maybe... that toxicity is just born of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of losing something. And it just manifests itself as anger... Latent and fierce. But seething...all the time.
A scared, stunted child.... lashing out at things you can't control and don't understand.
Or maybe... it's just who you are inside. A malignant bully. A fascist of the private life. Emboldened by a sense of entitlement, faith and fallacy.
But wherever it ultimately comes from... it doesn't change the fact that when you do lose those things....and when you do fail... it will be on you.
And.when you show strangers more love and kindness than the people close to you....when your anger, wherever it comes from, wafts with the fetor of abuse...
...the fact is... you really just don't fucking deserve them... as much as you'd like to pretend you do.
And all of the piety you can project... magnanimity you can fake... and embraces you can give...will never mask who you are on the inside. Not to the people paying attention.
And maybe....instead of petitioning an empty sky for strength that you don't have yourself... or blaming anything and everything and everyone else for causing your alleged pain... and instead of ignoring the pain you cause daily.... you need to take a hard look in a fucking mirror... see the virulent little shit staring back at you....and realize that you're the root of it, and no one else.
There is no god to bind.... no devil to blame.... and no wedge to cleave. There's just you. Fucking everything up... All by yourself.
And one day... when you lose it all... I hope you have the perspective enough to see that clearly.
Go and make your own apologies... instead of demanding them from a world that owes you nothing.

Or... just go fuck yourself...real hard like.

Thus begins Frosbukake '15.
I told you this shit would be epic.

(...the fuck was that?) 

Act 1: Summer Holiday Vs Punk Routine 
What do the tyrants have to do with Frostbike? Everything. Nothing. It's what's on my mind, for whatever reason. And where my mind goes always directs the narratives I use to process the world. So indulge my self-indulgence.



Listen to it.
(Come on... listen. I mean...you're here, reading this.... for some insane reason. So just listen to it... even if it's not your thing. Because at least that way, the things I say make a little bit of sense. (Possibly.))

Maybe it's absurd... to have the ethos that drives you forward each day defined best by the pithy aphorisms in a song.
But nonetheless... there you have it. And honestly, it's no more absurd than most of the words we use as anchors in this life. Punk and hardcore was the sound of Nietzsche and Sartre compressed into an accessible scream, set to the tempo of our quickening pulses. It was the scripture of a whole generation of us disillusioned with the tenor of a mainstream that never spoke to anything we were feeling. And scripture, in whatever form, has always been best boiled down to something terse and incisive. A mantra we can chant through pain... or a refrain we can howl along with when we're struggling most to make sense of the void.
The Hold Steady know this.

The scriptures that inform and resonate in my own life have always been, and always will be, purely secular... as I can think of nothing more fallacious or pernicious than attributing divinity to human ideals. And while truths can undoubtedly lie buried in sprawling myths and abstractions...the rubble that inearths it is, to my own mind,  ultimately malignant. And for my own part... I will never warm to a god of any kind.
And I refuse to abide one.

"Rather be forgotten... than remembered for giving in."

But of course.... I'd rather slip away into obscurity and nothingness... than be remembered for my compromises. (Though as it stands, we all know that I'll more than likely be remembered most as a modern day King Midas... turning everything to shit with a simple touch.)
And while I'm sure there are many a more poetic renderings... the verse and words that resonate most with me currently:

"I only get this punk chance once... and I just can't let it be."

Because I can't. And more importantly....I won't. And that trite little sentence informs so much of my direction and choices these days...
.....In business... In life... And in love...

And that (over)simple ethos....while it doesn't plot a course... it sets a tone.
While it doesn't read the map... it acts as a compass. It gives me bearings.
I made a promise to myself a number of years ago... in the aftermath of a lot of failure... and in the aftermath of a growing fault line finally slipping catastrophically... and all the fracture and chaos that followed.... that from that point on, I would try to live the life I wanted to. Go where I want. Talk with the people I want. Be with the people I want. And that the compromises I made in it would not be based on paralysis or fear... or on what other people wanted or thought was best for me... or even what I felt I deserved....
But they would stay rooted in an ever-reaching idealism, and always push the boundaries of an ever-binding realism. And those compromises, where made... would be deliberate and thoughtful... empathetic and directed...impactful and important.
Always.
And that outside of them... I would go all the places I want to. And take the risks I feel compelled to.
...In business... In life... And in love...

Act 2: Action.Time.Vision.
In past years, though it pains me to admit....I ran this shop much like a rudderless boat. Staying afloat as the wind and currents took me where they would. Too busy bailing out water or bracing myself against waves to find the time or direction to install a keel, much less plot a course. And when I did try to move forward, I paddled in confounding circles.

I wonder why?

Over the years, the ship gained some reputation, (for better or worse?), some momentum (slowly?), some direction (backwards?) and even a following (total. fucking. nutters).
Looking back though, I kind of can't help but think that I've maybe just became a jabbering, insane, sun-scorched conch of a man... talking to himself and the fish... doggedly chasing a white whale at the expense of everything and everyone else.
The past 2 years have been illuminating. In so many ways. The weather changed. The clouds parted and the wind subsided...a spell of clear skies and calm seas letting me see how far I'd drifted. And giving me a moment to build a worthy vessel.
As for perspective? Well....I don't know.
Because this ship I've built still only has one purpose:

To find and kill that fucking whale.



Maybe I'm naive and easily impressed.... but once again, it meant a great deal to be flown out and hosted as a "VIP" at Frostbike. This year was even more remarkable, as, regardless of whatever bluster got me there, I was invited to be a part of something called "The Indie Sessions."  Essentially it was a round table discussion among a small, handpicked cross section of shops that are allegedly setting the course and tone of the Independent Bike Dealer (IBD). Some of these have long since established successful models... and some are pushing the envelope and forging some new directions. I fall into the latter, obviously, as "long since established successful models" is not verbage that could ever be attributed to me.
But regardless of what facet I loosely and ineptly represent.. it meant a lot to be invited to join such august company for discussions of the current industry climate.




Act 3: Capitalism Stole My Virginity.
I arrived in Minneapolis late Tuesday evening... joined a distant, dear friend for some beers at the hotel bar... and went to bed.
The next morning, after getting laughably lost on the skyways traversing downtown, found some breakfast and made my way to my first session. I'd been flown in early so that I could take part in a shit-curdling exercise that the powers that be had playfully named Financial Deep Dive. It involved exploring my Profit and Loss statements, along with my Balance Sheet with the financial people... a thing that seriously made my ass pucker and my bowels loosen at the same time. But as they gracefully dove in and I belly-flopped behind them, I eventually emerged from the water with a bit more confidence in this vessel I've built... as instead of baffled as to how I was even still in business....they were cautiously pleased.
"So... you mean that barring the perfect storm... my mast isn't about to burst into flame, fall off, impale me and sink the ship?" I asked.
"Yep. You're in surprisingly good shape."
"Oh thank fuck!"
And in celebration... I proceeded to get blindingly drunk at QBP president Steve Flagg's house that night with all of the other Indie Session goons. Tobie of North Central Cyclery and I talked long and hard about many things... Frank Herbert's DUNE being among them. Many years ago, I gave myself the title of Kwizats Haderach at Revolution. A messianic title, I meant it not at all as any kind of reference to myself and what I do with the shop...and more as a nod (airborn high-five, really) to DUNE...and as a snarky, literary middle finger to any sort of title for myself at the shop. The Kwizats Haderach is a Chakobsa term that literally means "the shortening of the way," and refers to the namesake's ability to bend space/time and be many places at once. If you're being farcically charitable, you could certainly say that I am often many places at once. But if you're being candid, you could just say that I'm just a total fucking space-cadet with ADD.

Or visionary prophet... or whatever.

Tons of free food, free beer, good conversation and broom-ball. Which I was severely underdressed for... intentionally. Talk of going out on the town afterward, but ultimately beers at the hotel bar... and sleep.

The next morning was rough, which I hadn't anticipated. But my body was not handling all the things well. And while the hangover eventually subsided... my head and chest hurt for the remainder of the day. Remainder of the week, really...
Truth be told... they still hurt.
But we're not there yet.
The majority of the day was spent in discussions of Profitability, Branding and Operations. I tried to be a part of the discussions, and chimed in a few times on the branding workshops. But I was coming apart a little... for my own many simple and complicated reasons... And I didn't contribute to operations and profitability in the ways I'd like to have. That and the fact that operations and profitability are the absolute weakest points of my "Golden Triangle." Branding? I certainly don't have that nailed on any level... but I approach it in such a way that it's kind of the least of my concerns.
Near the end of the day, we broke into teams of "Accountability Partners." (Accountabilibuddies, I call them.) Geno of One on One was mine.
Considering how badly we managed to botch the initial worksheet provided to us... we might be fucked.
Although... I don't really think that. I mean... maybe I should have partnered with someone who's type A and who runs their shop like a well oiled machine. But I think that Geno and I are alike enough in how we approach our shops... and get along well enough... that we can call each other out for the things we see going on one another's shops... even if we can't do it for ourselves.

(Fast forward to this moment much later in the night, before every single wheel came off the train in the most spectacular of ways.)

Possibly the most important meeting of the minds in a restroom ever.
(Imagine four people completely unable to construct even a fragment of coherent sentence insisting on trying to construct coherent sentences about incoherent things.
Kierkegaard shit his pants many times over this night.)
That night, all the other VIPs arrived, and QBP plied us all with food and drink. We got to high-five all the people we wanted... barely avoid the ones we didn't... compare mullets... get tackled by Cheever... consume edibles... come unhinged... punch ourselves in the face... and watch mental daggers fly our way.
At least I did.
Me and Brian Worthy are like peas and carrots.

Me and these guys are like peas and carrots.

Pee on carrots...

Pee and mullets

Oh shit.

When they closed up the open bar, Geno, Brock of Orange Peel, Jeremy, Kat, Aaron of Kindred...and a bunch more made our way to One on One to grab some bikes and begin a mini bar crawl.
We never made it to the bar.
Not even close.









This is the face of a man struggling with the faculties of speech and communication.
Hard.

And this...is almost the exact moment that things fell apart.
.....But even if it spelled the end of the wheels... it's only the beginning of the night. And stories.
You like stories, don't you?
Next time: Giving yourself a concussion with your own fist...and the new medical data that suggests that it might be hurting you.





Oh shit.












Thursday, March 5, 2015

When Bad Things Fappen to Good People

Although let's be honest... Do bad things ever really occur during a Fappening?

Unless, of course, you're a teenager who forgot to lock the door?
Or a married man with dial-up?

Which brings us to a story...
Who among you fancies a story?
As if it matters... because you're totally getting one.

So, a  friend....
---Disclaimer: No... in this case "friend" is not me. Given the many, many things I've overshared with you, at this point in time you can safely assume that I would never pawn a story off on a "friend" if it were mine.... regardless of how embarrassing it is, or of how poor of a light it casts on me. I can only wish this story was mine, because It. Is. GOLD!)---
Anyway... a friend... I've long since forgotten who it was... (or have I?) had, what he thought, were a few moments to himself. I won't discuss the whys of it right now, but it is a simple scientific fact that occasionally men (and women) ensconced within even the most amazing and sexually fulfilling of relationships still occasionally need (and dare I say, relish,) some "moments to themselves."
Yes, while imagination can and will suffice... as grown-ups who have earned the dubious right eat Crunch Berries whenever we want... we've also earned the dubious right to look at porn whenever we want. (Except at work. (Unless you're Rich.))
(Yes...The politics of porn are complex and many. Proponent or opponent... that is a discussion for another time... Now is the time to listen to my damn story.)
I'd be curious to know what percentage of cyberspace actually is porn... (whatever the nature of cyberspace is)...  but it's extremely telling that humans would utilize something so literally world-changing as a conduit for the dissemination of naked pictures.
Yeah...We don't have issues with sex or anything.

For the most part, I think everyone is probably a bumbler. How they stumbled on a particular site is a mystery. Luck. Recommendation. A precious few (and I'm sure, statistically speaking, an absurdly massive number of men) take it so far as to "join" a site and actually pay for "premium content." But the vast majority (and in light of the statistics regarding the aforementioned population, every man on the planet (statistically speaking)... just go to whatever free photo-dump site they think (hope) is least likely to turn all the icons on their desktop into penises and vaginas. If they thought that far ahead... which they probably didn't...
(Until that fateful first trip to "Geeksquad"... computer full of virus... mouth full of lame excuses.)
But I digress...

My friend... had dial-up (this was a while back). And some moments to himself.
And so he went about finding some appropriate content (such as it was).
The extremely slow connection and poor processor, clunkier than anything on the most pitiful of phones nowadays, did it's best... but unfortunately, it all proved to be ultimately too much. One link in particular led not to euphoria, but to an endless and unstoppable barrage of pop-up screens.
At which point the computer just... couldn't.



And like a fainting goat.... froze.

At which point he heard a car door slam in the driveway.
At which point, the panic set in.
At which point he further noticed, terrified, that the last unwanted and very much unsolicited pop-up happened to be two very, very, very old people doing very, very, very bad (or good? depending on your tastes?) things.
(The front door opening...)
Sadly, at this point the computer was beyond responding to any and all attempts to close the myriad of windows on the screen, much less the one front and center.


(Footsteps down the hall...)
An attempt to discard of the physical evidence... (ahem, lotion)... resulted in tragedy when what seemed a light, easy lob toward the corner with hopes that it would fall behind the shelf, had a little too much power behind it and instead resulted in a shattered bottle and a substantial amount of white lotion now literally exploded all over said wall.
(The turning of a door handle....)
A firm pressing of the power button on the monitor and the screen blinking out....
(The door opening...)
... only to find that, like the lob, mayhaps too much firmness was behind the pressing of the power button, and the terrifying sound of the monitor blinking back on at the very moment he turned to face his spouse....

At which point, honestly....what can you do?
Save try to explain for the next 12 hours (12 years) that you are decidedly NOT into senior-porn. (Which somehow, in the discussions is purported to be less egregious a crime than the need for "moments to yourself."....
....Because "Is this what you're into?!!" is much funnier and easy to dismiss and discuss than "What's wrong with me?!!!) 


But... things Fappen, right?
(You can blame that story on Rich, by the way... Watts Fappening was his damn idea.)

When Rich and Ryan broached "The Fappening" I was pretty well into some beers. Dorita had come over and was lounging on the couch with a stack of papers. "So... I'm'a go down to Charlotte for some sexyfuntime with Rich on the 14th."
Nodded acquiescence with the brief word that the 14th was Valentines Day. The awkward grind of the rusty gears in my head. These things mean something. Even when you pretend they don't.

This was to be the follow up to Rich and Ryan's travels to my town, which I stupendously failed to document. And which.. while he won't admit it... Rich is a wee bit miffed about.

A note on that:
Rich is a blogger. I am not. I am merely a (very emotional) man with a (very bad) blog. And while I have achieved, in some circles, and for whatever insane reason, a modicum of familiarity for the things I write... when the gaping hole in my heart makes mirth impossible...or when my head is a thousand miles away... or when my son needs me (and more likely, I need him)... or when someone's magnetic field disrupts literally every wireless connection within a 50 yard radius.... (ahem)
story time for you is no-go.

Lack of timely documentation aside....
I enjoyed having those boys come visit me.


We began with some late lunch at Taqueria El Azteca.
Bill (Ryan) Nye brought his appetite.. Rich brought his 90's facial hair.
 Hey man... you like Soundgarden? Yeah, you do, spoonman.

Then we went to "the hovel" where Rich made friends with my dog Mango... who is usually quite particular about his friends.

Then we went to ride bikes around a parking lot. And a dumpster. And some trails.
Until it was dark. Very dark.

Then to the shop where we were apparently late to our own party.



Then we went downtown to drink at Gibbs Hundred Brewing.... where we made fun of everyone.
("psst.... You know who sucks? Watts.")

Take that, girl in the cow-chair.

Then we went to Sticks and Stones....where we apparently drank... water?
(Although you can see MY beer in front of my rock hard tasty abs, washerboard style.... glistening in the sun.)
And then.... I have no idea.
I guess we all made it home.
Rain the next day made riding a non-option, so Rich and Ryan fled back to their hometown to be bored as shit on familiar ground.

So....

Like a number of people (mostly women) I had to google "fap" to decipher Rich's joke. When I did, and found that I was the brunt of it... (as usual)... I spit my beer out and laughed...and knew that chances were the weekend would go wonderfully south. This was going to be fun.
A nine mile ride including nine breweries/drinking establishments. Pffft. I've had nine beers a million times. Stretched out over the course a half day? Cakewalk.
What could possibly go wrong?

I was fighting a bit of the funk (general physical malaise... separate from my usual existential funk), but was starting to feel a little better. Nonetheless... a pre-ride at Back Yard was not in the cards. So I met Rich at his place and after some dicking around (get it? Dicky? Dicking? Ugh. God, I suck.) we rolled out to meet Lee, Zac, Kate and others at a mexican restaurant for some foodstuff-calories before we were too full of beer-calories to make sense of proper nutrition.



Mexican food without beer is a problem for me...(what isn't a problem for you, Watts?)....so without hesitating, I looked Rich in the eye and ordered a Negra Modelo. He followed suit with a Dos Equis. That's how we roll. We hadn't discussed pre-gaming, and knew that it probably wasn't a super great idea. But it's not "great-idea racing" is it?
After two pre-game beers each, we hopped on our bikes and rode over to Sugar Creek... Stop #1 of the Fappening.
You know who loves a bunch of dirtbag cyclists descending on their establishment?
Fucking nobody....

Zac Avant..."We don't serve your kind....Unironic moustaches aren't allowed in here."




Nick "The Face of Chaos" Barlow rolled up right before we were about to leave, and once we corralled all the cats, we headed out to our next, unofficial and impromptu stop. Old Mecklenburg Brewery. 




More foodstuff-calories gleaned from sausages and pretzels... and standing too close to a fire pit... which made all of us smell like campfire for the rest of the night.




To Triple C Brewing. OMB had been a vast outdoor courtyard (the inside being vast as well). Triple C was notable (outside of the beautiful people) for the preponderance of dogs of all shapes and sizes. I love dogs. I especially love dogs that can co-mingle with humans and other dogs in a social setting.
Mango... is nonesuch an animal.




This picture is less of this dude's head, and more of the barmaid.



We are very funny.


On to Sycamore,,, our party growing with every stop.






At Sycamore, in what was an amazing stroke of luck, we ran into Danny the Hobbit... whose fame, of course, stems from the fact that he had successfully completed the Nine brewery crawl before us.

...and who, for a halfling, was actually a good bit taller than either Rich or myself. And better looking.
Good god, I am an unattractive man.
Humblest apologies to any and all women who ever mistakenly thought otherwise for a moment or two.

But after six beers, everyone starts to look attractive. Even when we drink beer like this.
"Ow. Watch the teeth, Rich."


"Umm....don't kid yourself, Watts. We might be attractive.... but a lot more is going to have to be consumed before you look that way."
On to Unknown....

This photo is less of Rich and more of a pixie-like barmaid examining the contents of his nose.
Or not.
He traveled from the wilds of Roanoke to join the Fappening.... and was in a constant state of disappointment at my constantly unraveling state. It's not unraveling, man.... it's.... fappening.

Is this still Unknown? I seriously have no fucking idea.

Can you believe that all these people actually showed up to an event named after me? 
And fapping?

This is when things truly began to get a little bent... and you can see the degradation of my photo taking.





I'm pretty sure that the aftermath of  "the ball incident" is why my hip was so sore the next day.
At least... I hope so.
So... I think this is NODA?... But I don't know.
Stop #6... Beer #8.



Yep.... NODA.... because according to tradition, you have to drink your beer in the bathroom.
Apparently.

Wait.. shit... I had two beers here. This is beer 9!?

And this.... is the last photo I took for the night. Kate and Jurwayne.
Somewhere.
Could be Birdsong. Could be Dolce Vita. Could be Sanctuaray. 
By Dolce Vita, things were kind of... done. Multiple beers were being consumed in place of one. All I wanted were more foodstuff calories... and instead, a shot of sake materialized...and vanished into my body.
I was beginning to lose some of my nigh legendary control. All of it, in fact.
Rich refused to budge when Ryan suggested we all go find more beer.... and successfully dragged me back to his house. The ride was fairly miserable... but I was doing alright. I mean... it wasn't like NAHBS last year....

I can DOOO it!

I even felt alright when I woke up the next morning.
For a little while....

I don't know what your hangovers are like... but mine start slowly... and like a freight train, gain unstoppable momentum.
If I wake up at 6am... it isn't until 8am that things really start to hit me. And once they do... I'm incapacitated for hours.
This... was no exception.
And for whatever reason... it was among the worst. Maybe it was the quanitity of beer. Although I've certainly had more. Maybe it was the addition of the sake. Maybe it was my weakened constitution from the funk. Or maybe... I just need to rethink some things in my life.
After lying in bed for about an hour... trying to sleep a little more... I decided that getting up and walking was the only possible option.
So I pulled on my clothes and bolted outside.
It was going alright. Yeah... I felt awful.. but the cold was helping.
Until it wasn't.
Walking by some houses less than a block away from Rich's, it hit me hard. I didn't even have time to bolt. I bent over and threw up in a stranger's front yard.
I had time enough to shuffle behind a row of Leland Cypress before it happened again. And again. And again.
I made it back to Rich's, where, much to my chagrin, and his family's wishes, I'm sure... I alternated between their couch and their bathroom for hours.
Kim is a super sweety-pie (THE pie, in fact) and did her best to care for me....even offering (in the sweetest, most aggressive way) an anti-nausea suppository...which I eyed dubiously every time my head came up from dry heaving bile into the terlet.



Much to their relief, I finally rallied enough to bid them adieu, and I headed to IKEA to buy a shelf, return some lightbulbs, and to eat Swedish Meatballs... which were probably not one of the things that Kim could have, in good conscience, recommended... ever.
As I left the house... Rich and I joked about having named the event Watts Fappening '15. As if there was going to be a '16.

Well...It's already in the works... whether Rich knows it or not.

Next time... FROSTBUKAKE '15.. which... will be fucking epic... on so many levels.
Consider yourself warned.