Nov 14, 2012

Making Stuff

Making stuff. Making stuff with my hands and creating. Those are things that turn me on and fill my soul. I put a bandaid on my finger tonight and couldn't quite recall what happened. It wasn't a cut, it was more of a spot rubbed raw. Ah yes, I was filing metal in a tight spot and repeatedly ran my finger into an adjoining steel part. Not with intention, not with self destructive behavior. That spot is there as a badge of honor for working with my hands and creating. Coincidently, I tuned into my favorite YouTube channel and found the video below - so inspiring. And if you don't find it inspiring I'm pretty sure the guy will give you a beat-down.


Witching Hour Transference

(Sounds of rattling around, a light turns on)
What are you doing?
I can't sleep.

   Fantastic. Now I am awake. Non-scientific studies have proven that the one sure way to get a song that is stuck in your head is to sing it out loud to a another person. You know, the horrible song that is like a cocklebur on your shoelace - hopelessly entangled in your brain and you have no idea where it came from. Somehow the brain cells that stored the memory of Billy Joel's "Piano Man"burst and the contents have filled your conscience mind. But the memory is looping. Sorry, now you may be playing the chorus "Sing us a song, you're the piano man - Well, we're all in the mood for a melody - And you've got us feelin' alright". This phenomenon has a perfect word used to describe it - EARWORM.    
   My personal witching hour is 2:30 to 3:30 AM CST. Precisely. If I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night ruminating it is during this one hour window. Ruminate is another perfect word by the way. It too sounds inherently evil, psychological and problematic. They don't have to be bad thoughts, just untimely and looping like that song stuck in your head. At times the thoughts are welcome - a creative solution to a problem,inspiration or good memories. And at times they are unwelcome - anxieties, conflict or bad news. In either case they are there and you can't not think about them. Much like the fact that there is no way to get this post out of my mind until I post it. Or at least sing it out loud and successfully transfer the thoughts to a unsuspecting blogosphere.
   As quickly as she woke up, I hear the sounds of slumber - deep breathing and legs twitching. Both sweet, but annoying since I am the one who is now awake. Transference occurred. I look at my clock (OK, my iPhone - clock just sounds more literary) and it is 3:21 AM. My wife sang the lyrics "I can't sleep" and they are looping in my mind.
   The brain is a funny thing. Hugely complex and clearly unexplored. Working in the background while your body is in sleep mode. I would embrace the presence of mind, the clarity of thought, if it wasn't 4:30 in the morning.

Oct 30, 2012

Flo The Barista

   What is your limit? How much are you willing to spend on a coffee drink? Vente whatevers are as high as five bucks and a organic, sustainable, shade grown, biodynamically farmed, Rainforest Alliance accredited cup-o-joe can run you about $2.50. Would you pay seven, eight or nine bucks for your favorite coffee beverage? Everyone is racing to the top, but what happened to the American standard cafe coffee served by Flo? Does the 50¢ bottomless cup of coffee exist? Maybe not, but we can keep the coffee shop alive. Flo and her Bunn coffee maker  have evolved and we are now served by baristas slinging siphon brewed luxury coffee drinks. On a core level, the coffee shop itself is alive and well  - a variety of folks belly up to the counter swilling coffee drinks getting ready for the day, taking a break or visiting with friends. Make time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in a coffee shop. Just sit. And chat up your barista. Along with other simple pleasures, our busy lives threaten the extinction of the coffee shop. Slow down and take time to enjoy the simple pleasures.


Oct 29, 2012

Latte Art

   I have been served a coffee drink with art on top a grand total of one time. It's not that I don't appreciate the artistry, I just don't drink lattes or any other froth topped wonder fuels. However, I did recently have a cortado complete with latte art while in Minneapolis. The place and the timing were so right I was enchanted to point of weighing out what exactly it would take to remain there. Relocating and finding a new job seemed like too much so I enjoyed the moment to the best of by abilities. The one thing on my mind in that moment was that coffee. Ahhhhhh, presence of mind.
   Seeing a cortado offered on a menu is rare and I only know the drink from brief travels in Spain. Of the two items on my agenda while in Minneapolis, one was to go to a snobby coffee joint. I wanted to understand the hype. And it was mostly hype until I had that cortado. Strong, delicious and beautiful to look at, I "got" it. Typically a latte will be roughly eight parts steamed milk to one part espresso - pretty thin. A cortado is in the same steamed milk and coffee mix family, but a one to one ratio of milk to espresso. It's a smallish drink, but enough to get you revved while looking stylish. And, if you're lucky enough to be served by a loving barista, you get latte art.
   Part of my new found love of the cortado is only loosely associated with coffee. More than anything, it is the singular focus coffee brings. Focusing and enjoying a single thing is the real pleasure, not necessarily the coffee. OK, coffee can be damn fine too.
   During my travels in Minnesota I also enjoyed what was probably the worse coffee I've ever had. Thin, decaffeinated and only warm to the point where it could be sipped with a straw. But the straw sipping octogenarian company was good. I had the privilege of joining my grandmother and her friends for three o'clock coffee in their assisted living cafeteria. I listened, laughed and my fear of my grandmother in a nursing home was eased. Slightly. Later it was reported that I was such a good sport and that I was such a hit because I talked so much. I have never, ever been described as talkative. This turns out to be as rare as coffee art on top of coffee drink and just as enjoyable.


Oct 21, 2012

Toe Pull

So genius. So simple. The face of public restrooms was forever changed by my friend Renato. I'm not much of a germaphobe, but the implanted mental picture replays every time I use the men's room in a public space. Again, I warn you. If you don't want to know, or are germaphobic, stop reading. Renato shouted in his Guatemaleness "hey man, don't touch that doorknob, man. Holy shit, now you just touched the last guy's dick, man!" Toe Pull claims that 70% of public restroom users don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. With that in mind, the last thing in the hand of 30% of users was their genitals. Dick to handle, or vajayjay to handle all day long. Introducing - TOE PULL! A revolutionary way to open the restroom hands free! So genius. So simple. Such a relief. "Eliminate 100% of handle to hand germ transfer."


Lay Lady Lay

   SPOILER ALERT: If you love "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan you may want to stop reading. Consider yourself warned - you may or may not find this destructive. Or, maybe you know. It wouldn't be the first time the world knew what I thought to be secret or sacred. Since I have a sole follower I feel like I can speak freely so I'll let it rip assuming that the public at large knows. Lady was Bob Dylan's fucking dog. Crushing.
   Curiosity is a dangerous thing, delving too deeply can shatter blissful ignorance. Peer into the depths below the surface of the golden pond and the luster may be tarnished or the choir might just stop singing. Lance Armstrong has been dethroned and yet another glittery icon is not gold. But even more surprising and more unnerving, the source of the iconic artwork for Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" album has been revealed - see video below. Go ahead, it's a great piece and not entirely destructive. In fact, it has enhanced the legend the way Heart of Darkness enhanced Apocalypse Now. This has made me think about exactly what this symbol means to myself and how it has stood the test of time. The artwork, the band, the songs and all of the associated memories are still golden to me. Unharmed and forever safe. Hold your simple pleasures close to your heart and reflect on what they mean to you. Never let them tarnish and be careful not to unravel.


 

Oct 13, 2012

Perspective

I just had a terrible restaurant experience and I loved every minute of it. A matter of perspective. And Company. Oh, Judge Reinhold did sit across from us. And I did learn a new saying in Serbian.

Oct 11, 2012

Serendipitous

Serendipitous. From that one word you can write the story. This video hit me hard.

Favorite Music Video

   I won't even get started on "what happened to MTV", but can testify that it has changed since the early days when MTV first aired The Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star". Ohhhh, the irony - to think that video, in the end, killed MTV. "Have you seen that new song?" is acceptable grammar. Music and video are forever entwined. Many of our mental pictures of a song have been reworked in our brains the way seeing a movie after reading a book re-writes our image of what we thought characters looked like or what scenes look like. Our own imaginings replaced with the producers vision. It has ruined many songs for me and has made many mediocre songs tolerable.
   I have passed countless hours "watching" my stereo absorbing the music, reading liner notes, inspecting LP covers and treasuring cryptic notes hand etched into vinyl next to the label. My copy of Out of Step has scratched into the A side "Why did the punk cross the road?" - side B reads "Because Ian told him to." Rich stuff, and something that as lost with the compact disc. The one exception to music videos, the one that allows room to imagine the song as I see it, is the video for Bastards of Young. This video gets it right for me - underproduced and underwhelming but lets the music hit like a ton of bricks. Get back to enjoying watching the stereo, enjoy.

World Turned Music Video

   If you listen to music frequently enough it happens. A song inadvertently becomes soundtrack to the real world and creates the most beautiful music video imaginable. Few actual music videos have the same feel or impact. Maybe it's the timing - the right song mashed with the right imagery for the right moment. Driving home last night I was listening to The Black Angels, one of my new favorites, was the perfect soundtrack for a nighttime drive though a very sleepy, slightly foggy Little Rock. The shine on the streets reflected street lights creating double image similar to squinting. There is a certain simple beauty created by squinting at the world. The fine details disappear leaving lights and darks, rich colors and elemental composition. It's a very painterly view - maybe Claude Monet was a squinter? Maybe music videos should be shot as though the viewer is squinting.
   The Black Angels came courtesy of my musically minded friend Charles who is like my personal music shopper. He only ever suggests the bands he knows I will love, knows ALL bands and has his own Pandora-like skills with his own mental music genome reference library. Black Angels have a sludgy psychedelic, Jefferson Airplane vibe - dark tones, lyrical depth and layers upon layers of guitar effects with a vocalist channeling a very mellow Grace Slick. Simple and a little fuzzy, the music matched the view and my personal music video was made. Single take perfection - no edits, just raw visual and soundtrack.

The visual:

The soundtrack:

Oct 7, 2012

Solitude

   Imagine solitude. How alone are you in your imagined solitude? How challenged are you?Alone at the coffee shop for an hour or alone in Antarctica for 59 days? Everyone has there own sense of being alone. Some are out there on the edge of sanity willing themselves along an unknown route on the edge of peril. Some are able to get lost in a song driving through the city at night. So which is better or more rewarding? There is no telling, no way to put a value on any point in the spectrum of solitude. I read through an account of what must be one of the outer limits - see link below. What I imagine as solitude has ben redefined.
   Over the last year I have been working on a project alone in my workshop. My shop is within feet of my house and yet I can be utterly lost. No heat and no air alone with tools and my project. Music plays, hours pass. Personally, if successful, it will be one of my greatest endeavors. I'm not trying to fly to the moon or trying to write an saga, but I can say that my project has been a series of high and lows - challenges, triumphs and failures miniature in stature, but enough to test my resolve. Even the sense of secrecy is a new challenge. This is born from the fear of failure. I don't want to be the guy that spouts off and is later asked "hey, whatever happened to that thing you said you were making?" - having nothing to show other than a portrait of personal disappointment. Naturally, if I arrive on the other side of what currently feels like a huge, solitary expanse filled with uncertainty, I will bask in glory here on my blogspot which is now one subscriber strong.
   Solitude has many faces. For me, it is a positive word and more of a mental state than a physical condition - a positive sensation bound in a personal challenge. Walking on the edge of sanity, utterly alone and frozen for 59 days is more solitude than I would sign up for, but imagining it and reading an account of it amazes me. Imagine facing crushing despair every hour, could you press on? Will yourself to go forward? Endlessly lift yourself up? Imagine arriving on the "other side" of the chasm of solitude, there would be nothing that you could not do. Everyone has the potential to cross their personal expanse and arrive "scarred and hard" with a sense of newness and appreciation of their world. I applaud anyone who has embraced solitude, crossed their personal chasm and can reflect on the feat.


LINK: First woman to cross Antarctic solo - I've never felt so alone


 

Oct 4, 2012

Spoken Word

   A man walks on stage, grabs the microphone and attacks. It's Henry Rollins. Plain black t-shirt, well worn but clean black Dickies and boots - SWAT looking boots. The pace is set high and within in minutes Henry has performed a coup with military-like precision and tactics. He looks military, or mercenary, with closely cropped hair, tuned physique and the jawline of a staff sergeant. The attacker has taken over the audience by force. There is no escape and no desire to flee. Everyone is riveted. Slashing away with the keen blade of the English language, he channels his thoughts and experiences into stories that are parts and pieces of a bigger story which circles back around, "like a snake eating its tail" as he puts it, two and a half hours later never once breaking his stance or intensity. His SWAT boots rarely moved and his microphone arm remained cocked with sweat dripping off his elbow.
   "Spoken word" is a phrase the feels at though it should be muttered with a Shakespearean grumble. It feels highbrow and artsy. Poetry slam, open mic, stand up, spoken word - they all feel very drama club. But there is a rawness that amazes. No hype-man, no band, no warm-up, no net and no light show or fog machine. A performer, a microphone, a spot light and the audience. Its a high wire act, fail and you die a horrible death. If you pull-off the double back flip the audience is yours. But your tricks have to be original, clever, creative and flawless. Spoken word is exactly that - words spoken. The artistry comes by way of original thought and view of the world, presentation, passion and a masterful use of the English language. It's all you, do or die.
   30 years has passed since I last shook Henry Rollins hand. Great to see him yet again, great to have witnessed him performing again, great to know he is "going up the road" building on his experiences and thoughts and great to see that he continues hone his keen blade.


 

Sep 28, 2012

Blogospheric Pressure

Awwww hell, the word blogospheric already exists. Technically speaking, if you have an original, seemingly isolated thought have you invented something? I thought so too. But I Googled my shiny new word only to find that it had already been invented and am now questioning my policy on inventions. Wiktionary classifies it as "rare". It sure felt like I invented a word and it was deflating to find out that I merely produced a rarity. Or, is it possible that there are more than one inventor of any one thing? Say I come up with a word previously unknown to me. Am I the inventor? The term inventor gives credit to the first person to document an invention regardless of who may have thought of invention first.
   A week into blogging and have only started to put my head around blogs, blogging, the blogosphere, etc. Only now do I realize, or am thinking about, the word blogosphere. Stratosphere, atmosphere, troposphere - all etherial things that by nature you cannot touch, you cannot smell, you cannot see and yet you know that they exist. Or at least you know the effects of each exist. Much like the blogosphere. And much like another topic I will not dare to touch here. My personal blogosphere is expanding and my thoughts are sparks. Some are fanned into flames, some don't have the energy to ignite in a soggy, bloggy world.
   Blogospheric Pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a blogger by the weight of blogs above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth (yes, I made that up based on the definition of atmospheric pressure). Or, simply put, the pressure I feel to post fresh content or original thoughts within the confines I have set - "all things upfull and right, the goodness of life". Fanning sparks of thoughts into flames is the goodness I'm getting from blogging, bloggerizing, and blogiculating.... There, I've done it! As painful to use as it is, I have invented a new word, used it in a sentence and have documented it in the blogosphere.



Sep 25, 2012

My Own Private Belgium


I know, I know... more cycling. But of the things in my life that top off my tank, riding is the fuel that keeps me going. Exercise, adventure, escape, meditation, camaraderie, and marvelous machines in a single serving. Of course, there is riding and then there is soul-riding. Riding is the prep work for the soul-rides, it is what you do to develop the strength and endurance required of the soul-ride. A soul-ride was once described as "glory through suffering" and is the unforgettable, indescribable epic that challenges you to dig deep and touch your soul. These are the most rewarding, most uplifting rides. Funny how being so empty can be so filling.
Belgium has an interesting appeal to cyclists. It's the mother land to some of histories greatest cyclists and is a cycling-centric symbol of hardcore riding and general badassery. My latest ride East of Little Rock is was what I imagine a typical ride is like in Belgium. We started in a little fog with ominous skies overhead. In the end there was no rain, but the roads were wet with the evidence of the two previous days of rain. A few puddles spanned the road and the asphalt was just wet enough to lift the fine silt of the road and coat the legs and bike with the sandy water mix that destroys components. The water doesn't taste bad, but has a gritty texture to it so no real joy sitting on someone's wheel. The only thing missing from my make believe Belgium was a steady wind. It must sound awful to a non-cyclist, but these are the rides to be remembered and the reason Belgium holds a place in a cyclist's heart.

The Lion of Flanders is the iconic black lion the Belgian nation flag. If you follow the Tour you have seen the Belgian fans waving enormous yellow flags emblazoned with their mighty lion. No doubt they are fueled by a Belgian beer or three. The exuberance of national pride is clear - beer, chocolate, frites and hard-as-nails cyclists seem to be Belgium's national products - who wouldn't be proud? In our make believe Belgium there are no frites or beer, but we do have chicken on a stick. A delicious chunk of protein from poultry, chicken on a stick is low on carbs, low "GI" and plenty of essential oils cleverly mounted on a convenient handle. Note: don't carry leftovers is your jersey pockets, the grease stain may not come out. We also have our own iconic lion that watches over passing riders, paw raised honoring those who have braved the heat, wind, rain and rugged roads on that day. Or at least that is what I believe about the Lion of Scott.

Sep 16, 2012

The Group Ride

Haven't met Peter Wilborn, but want to thank him for describing what I feel is a dying art, the art of the group ride. I'm trying to get back there, trying to relive the days of riding with my dad and his buddies out on the road. I grew up around road riders from a previous generation, let's call them old school. This was a time before any printing was even allowed on riding shorts - and I say shorts because bibs weren't around yet, riders wore wool shorts with a leather chamois and used thin suspenders to keep them up. Shoes were black, socks were white. There was a strong aesthetic, due in part to a lack of options, and this aesthetic was part of a code. This code was what I imagine Bushido to be - honor the machine, respect fellow riders and ride as though you are creating art. Fitness came through time on the bike, but the group riding skills were skills passed down to younger riders from more experienced riders.  If you have experience a proper group ride you understand the dynamic, the bond and the art. Peter Wilborn gets it. Thank you Peter.

Lost Art of the Group Ride

Sep 15, 2012

Tom Ritchey, The Godfather of Mountain Biking

Enjoy mountain biking? I miss it. I haven't ridden a mountain bike in years and think about it all the time. In the shop I'm surrounded by them. Great machines that offer adventure and escape. So what happened? Kids. No idea what I did with my free time before kids. Maybe I was bored more often, I did get out on some great off road rides and adventures. Some glorious, some disastrous. All were fantastic. I realized that mountain biking required more time than I had available. Knowing that I couldn't recapture the time away from my kids I couldn't justify the loading up, driving to trails, riding and returning to clean up and maintain my bike. Oh, there was the occasional crash that would bang me up too. Road riding became a way to ride, escape and enjoy bicycles with a smaller time commitment. Just step out the door and ride. Fewer crashes, no driving and less maintenance. The last time I was on a mountain bike I was out West in Zion National Park celebrating my 40th birthday. Some good friends and some of the best trails I have ever ridden. What a way to go out. Gotta get that back.

So what about mountain biking? Have you ever wondered? I'm not old and I have seen the entire history unfold in my lifetime. My first mountain bike was a Ross (circa 1980?), gold rims and all it was one of the first mountain bikes in Minneapolis. One of several bikes I should have never sold. A few bikes later and I had a Ritchey Timberwolf which was two wheeled badness. I worked in a shop and managed to break my ankle weeks before it was to be delivered. "Bear trap" pedals integrated well with the rubber peg on my cast so I was off riding. Bermuda shorts, a skate t-shirt, Chuck Taylor on one foot and a cast on the other. No problem. That bike was pivotal in my life and the connection to cycling that I enjoy to this day. When I stumbled upon this video about Tom Ritchey I sat back with my cup of coffee, all quiet in the house, and paid respect to the man behind the bikes, the history, the parts and pieces that made the sport - Tom Ritchey, The Godfather of Mountain Biking.

Sep 14, 2012

So cycling, so film, so very well done. "It's about the connection between the life of an everyday cyclist and a dream." Go ahead, spend six minutes dreaming of Paris Roubaix.

Intro

This is it. Time to giddy-up. I've thought about this for awhile and now is the time for action. I'm interested in all sorts of things, but mostly positive, enriching, soul-stiring goodness. Cue UPFULL. This is my offering - a digital portrait of the way I think and what I think about.