Just a quick note…

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Sometimes...

… to simply state that I am by no means lollygagging with my blabbing here. My poor old computer has, effectively, pooped the bed.

The groaning of a hard drive on it’s last proverbial hoof is what greets me every time I fire the old gal up, followed by randomly spaced, yet eminent blue screens of death.

So, until I get reinforcements this week- I shall be ruminating and marinating several subjects, including (although not limited to) some fine new music, revisiting Freaks and Geeks and a ’64 Gibson Firebird non-reverse I happen to be in a relationship with.

Two crashes while writing this- You see my dilemma-

Talk to alla youse soon!

Well, here we are.  February 7, 2014.

I don’t think this Winter has been remarkable in terms of snowfall, or frigid temperatures. I don’t think it’s been remarkable in any way.

Which is exactly what’s made it virtually intolerable.

Every single gray and cold day bleeds into the next from the last in an endless procession of below average mediocrity. It’s maddening. Any energy I may have built up, any excitement for living or sense of wonder and adventure had been beaten out of me with such lightening rapidity between the months of December (when I last had an opportunity to ride my bicycle and be outside) to now that it’s made my head spin.

Everyone I know is a miserable husk of their former, Spring through Autumn selves.

GOOD!

Now, with only a very little bit of luck, folks will be elated and joyful and thankful in few short weeks from this decidedly bleak and miserable day! When the temperature rises into the forties, we’ll be dancing in the streets! The fifties, shouts of joy! The sixties…you see where I’m going with this.  Most likely the celebration will be vastly less obvious that that, but you’ll notice.

There’ll be some extra politeness when conducting transactions, smiles with the “Thank you” at the supermarket. A few more doors will be held open, a few added wave-throughs at four way stops.  Maybe nothing that seems Earth-shaking on the surface, but all of this collective awesome adds up.  Moods lift, attitudes adjust, kindness is in much greater supply- think about it.  Summer RULES, right? But why?

Is it the blue skies, warm breezes, brilliant green everywhere you turn? Is it the golden sunlight, or the opportunities to be outside and DO things that said sunlight affords? Yes. It is ALL of those things. But the primary reason that Summer is so gloriously bitchin’?

IT AIN’T WINTER, YO.

So, thank you, Winter of 2013/2014. Thank you for sucking so badly.  Thank you for your overt dullness and infinite nondescript average-ness. Thank you for your dry, cold days that contain only about four minutes of actual daylight, and for nights that appear to last about seventy-eight years each. Thank you for appearing to be the season that will  go on without end, so that when you finally do shove off and let Spring take over, we can all go- “Ohmygodfinally” in that sort of half sigh, half whimper thing that people do when they find out the don’t have to pull jury duty.  Only on a more epic, cosmic scale.

Thank you, you miserable freakin’ Winter. Thank you for sucking so bad, so we can realize just how awesome it is when it’s NOT Winter.

Now, let’s get a move on.  My bicycle is getting fat.

Namaste

One of the most remembered lines from “Stand By Me”. And although I can relate to the sentiment, It’s just not so for me.

See, I still have most of the friends I had when I was twelve. I’m not sure why we bonded as tightly as we have, or even how I met some of them. The most likely scenario is the simple fact that, as awesome as most of our families were and are, we lacked SOMETHING at home. Some didn’t have dads, some moms, some had both but so many sibling they were kinda lost in the shuffle. Some had folks that worked so hard to keep food on the table, they simply couldn’t be present. Some of us just felt different, misfits in a sea of homogeneity.

The bottom line- we NEEDED each other. Very few of us had the Johnny Cade home-life. Most of us had hot meals and a decent record player. We weren’t neglected, or abused. We were different.

To the man, we were smarter. Some of the wits I was surrounded by (and subject to, in the way only guys are!) were so rapier sharp, they could literally be used as weapons. Laughter was found in even the most horrific situations. It was with these friends that I discovered that the true nuances of dick & fart jokes, and the subtleties of crafted, applied wordplay, insults and observations are one and the same. Dumb folks didn’t get us, and never, ever made us laugh on purpose.

We were tough. Now, some folks think of Jermyn PA as a kind of Mayberry RFD place. And it may have only 3000 inhabitants and be a quaint, pretty little place to drive through. However, in the 1980’s, it was still legal to defend your honor. If you kicked little Tommy’s ass behind the cafeteria for calling your mom fat, you were not arrested. You were sternly reprimanded publicly, and then given’ and secret “Atta boy!” before you got sent back to class. And there were more than a fair share of bullies who needed taking down. That was OUR job. It may have been on the absolute smallest level, but we protected the little guys, while slapping the hell out of each other.

We competed. (That was still legal, too) With each other and everyone else. Huge, well-organized full-contact tackle football games without padding, gladiator fights (yep, trash can lids & large sticks beat each other bloody & laughed the entire time), “gang” fights (which we tried really hard not to call “rumbles”, but did anyway) with the kids from the next school-district over. Kind of a “brothers in battle” mentality developed.

We were fairly…criminal. Since I have no idea of the statute of limitations on our various and sundry crimes, allow me to state simply that we were little bastards, but not because we were mean, but rather because of the adventure, the excitement in it. The vast majority of us eventually found new ways to satisfy out longing for adventure. However- this leads me to a facet of our lives many people outside of out tightly knit clique have overlooked the Explorer Scouts.

Now, we had, in our pursuit of excitement, gone just a tad too far in the career criminal direction and my dad, and my friend Gopher’s dad decided enough was enough. They formed (actually resurrected) Troop 81 from Jermyn, PA. Only they formed an Explorer Scout Troop.  Kinda the Green Berets of Scouting.  And attendance was mandatory.

These two guys dragged us on forced marches, on week-long canoe trips (ask me about sun burning my ass cheeks if I don;t tell ya, one of the crew will), taught us how to USE knots, not just tie them. Cross-country skiing, survival-ism, repelling, all manner of manly and, most importantly, ENERGY USING stuff!

Anyway, through that brief and select history, I am hoping to show how the bonds we formed when we ourselves were being formed,  could result in these life-long friendships. Some of us are no very far away. But even just last week, although “life” prevented us from doing any major partying, my friend Ernie (no, that’s not his Christian name. We ALL have nick names) swung by my work with his by to say hello. I haven’t seen him in several years, and we missed each other as I was leaving for the day. But I heard a “HEY!” in the parking lot, and instantly, my brain said “that’s Ernie!”.

Honestly, we were so tight as a group, we could tell you who was arriving by the sound of their car’s engine.

I see the vast majority of The Gang fairly regularly, Phi, Gopher and myself still ride mountain bikes as often as possible, at least once a week together.  We still consider ourselves a pack. There’s a “Locals Only” sign above us at all times, but we’ll give anyone a chance to hang out. Weather or not you tie your own rope is up to you! Buzz & Keeb, I don’t see them as often as I’d like, but whenever we run into each other, even if it’s been years, it’s as though I saw them yesterday. No “Why haven’t you called?” petty rubbish. Just “So, what’re ya up to?” followed by extended periods of laughter.

Same goes for guys I only see once every ten and, (now that more Summers are behind me than in front of me) sometimes every 20 years. We never look older to each other, even though we, of course, do.  We have millionaires and paupers in our fold and none of us is treated any different within the group.  Some of us are gone for good. But they are still included. We rarely speak of them in the past-tense. Rather, as if they were here, now. Being made fun of in person. Because reverence is too akin to maudlin-ism for our tastes.

I don’t know what it was about those summers in the woods, the keg bashes with fires so big they could be seen from space, the flying up and down Route 6 in some rusted out 70’s muscle care (with a pristine and bored-over engine). Chasing girls from other schools who wanted as little to do with us as the ones from our own! Wearing denim vests with Genesee beer logos and heavy metal patches, going to concerts in Binghamton , all piled into a van or in one of Lysander’s cars that went insanely fast, but you couldn’t steer, so you sorta just aimed. Judas Priest blasting out of boom boxes that took fifteen D batteries, named things like “Mr. Box” or “Refrigerator Box”, respectively.

I could go on all day, and I will after I’m done here, in my head. And I’m not even sure what I was trying to say, here, except perhaps that I DO have friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Because I knew enough to hold onto them.

Or, maybe I’m just very, very lucky.

Namaste

That’s what my friends Phil, Gopher and myself have. A combined age of 137 years.

Today the three of us hung out, griping about the winter weight we’ve accumulated, the blues that accompany Winter and Winter weight, etc.

And we’d have continued in the complaint vein if it weren’t for our shared passion- BICYCLES.

Goph has a sweet roadie he’d recently converted to a tourer-ish composite bike and rolled it into Phil’s garage where we were changing my brakes (by we, I mean Phil, who actually did all the work) and we three stopped our bellyachin’, and marveled at it. It has beautifully clean lines, gorgeous wheels. He added new straight bars, shifters and brake levers, and the new brake assemblies themselves were just gorgeous. It all went together beautifully. As a salvaged, 90’s American Schwinn, it’s classic grace combined with modern updates made it… sexy.

After having an actual bike in our midst, it inspired us to turn the conversation immediately to fat-bikes.  We raved about how they will not only extend next years riding season several months by slicing through the snow on their uber-chunky tires, but how they’ll gracefully meander mountain tops we tend to barrel across because the terrain is such that on a narrower rim, the rocks, roots & stumps will simply knock ya the hell over if you don’t bomb over ’em at speed.

From there, some back slapping at our ability to out-ride guys 20 years our juniors, due almost entirely to the determination, finesse and experience that come with getting older and being on the tenacious side to begin with. I know for a fact my 20 year old self would never be able to outlast my current 45 year, 11 month old self. Especially on long, murderous inclines (Ever driven from Starrucca to Stillwater Lake? We did it on MOUNTAIN TIRES ON THE ROAD last summer. With no training and a 20 year lapse in having ridden AT ALL.)

<https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Starrucca,+PA+to+Stillwater+Lake,+Susquehanna,+PA&saddr=Starrucca,+PA&daddr=Stillwater+Lake,+Susquehanna,+PA&hl=en&sll=41.905343,-75.412903&sspn=0.191893,0.363579&geocode=FR5XfwIdcWiA-ymp1xNINTzbiTGck_nB5sk7nw%3BFSJSfAIdcSaA-ykp6YUIKjLbiTEg6f2MO8VeaQ&oq=starrucca+PA+to+Stillwater+LAke,+P&t=m&gl=us&z=11&gt;

We’ve all got physical issues, some of which we had 25 years ago, some new ones, but all of this kind of melts away when we ride and quite honestly, the more we ride, the fewer aches and pains we have. It’s remarkable. And whenever we roll past a group of dudes our age, we get the “Lookit them guys. Who do they think they are riding bicycles at their age?” and we all kinda wish we could get ’em on a bike for one good ride themselves. We know it’d change their lives for the better, forever.

Winter’s been rough on everyone this year. It’s been dark, and really REALLY cold! It seems like it’s taking longer to hit the road than any other Winter, ever. We know it isn’t, but it FEELS that way.

But Spring is coming!

We’ve taken little walking tours of some trails we intend to his the instant Spring gets here recently, and we got to ride well into the winter, sometimes in temperatures well below zero due to some amazing tech advances in riding clothing.  Stuff like that has tempered the nastiness Winter a tad and made the blahs & blues a little less severe.

But the one thing, the ONLY thing that grabbed us by the lapels and dragged us through the darkest, shortest, coldest days of the waning Winter was thinking about, shopping for, deeply discussing and constant daydreaming about RIDING.

Spring is nearly here, our bikes are in the final stages of post-hibernation dialing-in and we are chomping at the bit.

Bicycles have enriched, lengthened and, ultimately saved the lives of myself and my two long-time trail partners, Goph & Phil.

Thank you, bicycles everywhere!

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. ” ~H.G. Wells

“Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” ~Mark Twain

Namaste

Stinkin’ Thinkin’.

Posted: February 2, 2014 in Sometimes...
Tags: ,

Sounds dopey, right? “Stinkin’ Thinkin'”? Sounds like something a new-aged eight year old would say.

But it sticks in your head. And that phrase, and it’s stickiness are responsible for allowing me to change EVERYTHING about my life!

When my Z-Wife and I finally divorced, it wasn’t a 100% amicable thing. We both still had tons of hurt and anger and, quite frankly, neither o us were even remotely complete human beings. Way too much shitty stuff had either happened to us, or been perpetuated BY us for any sort “inner peace” business. (I dislike greatly using pop-culture terminology to describe life-changing events. Bu yo, sometimes, they be the bestest word for the occasion!). Both of us have found better, separate paths that have ultimately led us to the reality of one another. She’s my best friend. Divorce was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage and it was this unlikely event that set us on our respective journeys to ourselves. Here’s a but about mine;

Anyway- I wound up having to go to a therapist. And I did NOT want to. I was fine, rest of the world is fucked up, yadda yadda. And I went in with a bit of a chip on the old shoulder. But see, what I wasn’t expecting was this- she was WAY smarter than me, and, albeit in the most pleasant and kind way- she took ZERO shit and called me on EVERYTHING. However, her most constructive contribution to me fixing myself was that silly-assed term: STINKIN’ THINKIN’

And it was ME fixed ME. She just read the instructions to me- same for everyone, gotta do it YOURSELF! If you go into it thinking somebody else is gonna do the fixing, you’re fucked from jump street. But I digress…

Here’s how the term is applied- Say you’re driving down the street and somebdy cuts you off. Normal reaction (mine, anyway) “That motherfucking fat fucker! He didn’t even look! Trying to kill me! Bet he drinks! Bet he lies to trip old women carrying their grceries! Ten bucks says his mother hated him….” You get the drift.

Here’s the thing- what if I apply all that to the scenario, only I didn’t even SEE the driver, so even my assumption that they were a guy is based ONLY on speculation. So…where does that leave the entire pile of assumptions I based on THAT one? STINKIN’ THINKIN’! My therapist told me to repeat that word whenever a situation arose that I compounded my anger with assumption.  And because it disguises itself as such a moronic term- you almost CAN’T forget it! It pops up whenever you start working yourself up just by nature of it’s absurdity, then it triggers you to THINK about what you’re doing- eventually CHANGING the way you think!

Now, I was used to Freudian therapists who had never made any progress with me. “Tell me about your muzzer” didn’t help me, because my mom was kind of awesome, plus, MY problems, not HERS were the issue! This new therapist was a cognitive psychologist. Change how you think NOW- not WHY you think that way. Not that past issues aren’t something to be dealt with, but if you think like an asshole, you won’t ever be able to deal with them properly anyhow, so… learn how to think CORRECTLY first! A simple “Free your mind and your ass will follow” process. It was an amazingly different approach and although I’d STUDIED cognitive psych in college, I never actually saw it applied in a practical situation. Now, suddenly, it all began to make sense. It eventually resulted in the archetypal “AH HA!” moment.

So- once I realized nobody was telling me I was sick, once it was established that the ultimate goal was that I STOP needing to come, not that I need to visit her in perpetuity, I felt at ease and safe enough to dive in. An it worked. Not in a few months, or a few years- within days. Within days the “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” phrase popped into my head whenever I assigned attributes to a situation I had no evidence of.  Anger, I learned, was a natural and real emotion. All the shit after it, I made up.  BOOM! That’s the “AH HA” right there.

So- I steadily became a much, much less angry person. Something I never even WANTED to do- I always thought anger was bitchin’ and these peaceniks were idiots. But again- that was Stinkin’ Thinkin’ based on a paradigm I’d set based on one or two people who rubbed me the wrong way, and used to generalize anyone who reminded me of them even a little, combined my own feelings that mean meant safe. Took me a while to separate mean and tough. Tough guys are at peace, and they can take whatever is hurled at the, mean guys ain’t, and tend to create their own misery. Well- THIS mean guy, anyway. I can’t speak for any other mean guys, I don’t know how or why about nuthin’ but me. I was beginning to realize how little of what I thought was real was simply imagined, and if it was imagined- any anger attached to it was imagined as well… I was changing from the inside out!

Think about that for a moment- freedom from the misery of anger. Freedom from useless shit like road rage, bar fights, family arguments that last years- all because instead of going “They think they are so much better then me, THAT is why they talk to me that way” or some such stuff, you instead say “That dude is angry.”.

A few years after my therapist sent me on my merry way, I finally committed to Buddhism, which I’d been dipping my toes into for years, but too afraid to dive into. While studying, wouldn’t you now it- there is an identical philosophy to “Only see what is there”. As a matter of fact, it was a large factor in taking the actual first step into re-defining my ideas of faith and salvation, happiness and right-living. By only seeing what is there, you remove fear of the unknown, without removing caution. Because the old adage “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there” is reduced to “I don’t know if it’s there unless I see it”.  It’s friggin sweet, man.

Basically, what I have found to be true (because I’ve SEEN the results) is this : If you want to be truly free, truly at peace, truly fulfilled- then stop reading BETWEEN the lines. There’s nothing there except Stinkin’ Thinkin’.

Namaste