Friday, April 18, 2014

Nowhere Man


Lazy Day
As I enter the fourth week of my involuntary vacation (I'm unemployed again, apparently) I find myself taking longer and longer rides on my bicycle. My goal is to live on my bike, a term we all are familiar with, I suppose, but at the same time, what does it mean?

This is the best time of year where I live here in Florida. The thermometer hovers daily around 75 degrees during the day, the nights are cool and the windows are open. Overnight, it seems, my world turned green, everywhere it is green and cool and the breezes are just right, blustery sometimes and variable, as they say, but just right all the same. Also, I don't know if they are migrating or just suddenly found themselves down and out and living in a trailer park, but all manner of birds have arrived, robins and cardinals and woodpeckers and bluejays and others; I can hear, as I sit here at my table, chirpings and singing and squawkings and they sound as though they are having a blast, those birds. At least I hope they are.

Destination Home
As for me, I have been riding not far, but long. Ever a master of time and space, I know how to do it, this drifting, this going nowhere and taking my time to get there. I have been doing probably thirty miles, maybe more, each day, setting out around ten a.m. when my Florida world is perfect: the sun just right, the cars settled into their routines and cadences; I pedal off with nowhere to go and nothing to do when I get there. What I am usually doing is poking around out on the far corners of town, looking at one acre pieces of ground that I have found listed for sale on the internet. Small pieces of uncut jungle, mostly, the kind of places homeless guys who truly live on their bicycles are known to seek out. Places that are not too far from supermarket sustenance or the conveniences (and bathrooms) of handy neighborhood parks and public libraries.

Are you going anywhere with this? You seem to be rambling.

“Silence, Voice! I know what I'm doing here, mostly.”

Well, a lot of people read this stuff at work and don't have much time and besides, aren't you supposed to be concise and sparkling and kill somebody by the end of the first chapter?

“What? Kill somebody?”

Yeah and then you spend about a hundred and fifty pages having the hero sort things out and you sprinkle in some red herrings and false plants and misdirection and there is lots of action. Plus you can use juxtaposition and non-linear timelines to keep the reader off-balance and...

“Voice! Stop! Calm down! What the hell are you talking about? You sound like you've been auditing writing classes out at some Junior College somewhere. Wait a minute...is that where you...”

Well, someone has to do it! I didn't have anything else to do while you were off in the outback building those stupid McGrease's. At least one of us is trying to better himself and find a way out of this damn trailer park.

“OK, buddy, take it easy. You just caught me by surprise there, for a minute. Look, this piece here ain't a murder mystery, it's just a rambling post about, uh, rambling. And, by the way, that stuff you were spouting is what results in formulaic fiction. You're better than that, partner.”

What we need is a formula for some dollars. I really like that property out on Cow Creek Road. The one with the little pond and the big oak out front.

“I like that one, too. Let me finish up here and we'll pedal out there and have another look.”

Waiting For FedEx
So there you have it. That's what I am doing, these days: pedaling around on some new trails, new roads that are familiar to me and yet, not; I'm looking at my roads a little differently. Things look different when you are seeking a new place, a new home...

To that end I recently fired off one of my yearly $100 (free shipping!) bike parts orders. There will be newer, fatter tires, a rear rack (and a front one as well) and a new seat and a light kit. I am prepping my old Schwinn Le Tour, Little Miss Dangerous, getting her ready for living on my bicycle. Not homeless, but ready. I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a magical time when I could buy some Surly or Velo Orange dream machine, but reality has set in (as it is wont to do) and it occurred to me that Little Miss could get the job done just fine. We'll find out.

TJ the DJ
I recently started listening to music while I ride, plugging in earphones and streaming mostly what is called New Age or Ambient music. I previously scorned such a practice as unsafe, but so far it seems safe enough. For my aimless roaming around town at lazy speeds it seems safe enough for me. And it has opened an entirely new dimension, (almost literally) of riding. If I were on a fast intermodal run or on my way to someplace I had to be, it wouldn't work, I don't think. But for just rambling around the countryside, or doing big figure eight's in the empty parking lot of a failed strip mall, it is just right.

A lot of things are just right, lately. That would make a good name for a bicycle company, don't you think? Just Right Bikes.

Success Is Mine, Sayeth the Cyclist
Yesterday, after about four hours in the saddle, I was coming around a bend in the road and for just a moment, a brief flickering moment of time and life, I did not know where I was. Lost in a dream, flutes and tinkling bells and acoustic guitar echoing around the vast empty spaces of my mind, I suddenly found myself disoriented and with absolutely no idea where I was. I only knew that I was on my bicycle, pedaling to the rhythm of my heart, lost.

That's what I am trying for, it seems; I'm trying to pedal my way to another place. I think it is working.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Dreams
April 18, 2014





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gatorland

Good Morning
“Tim Joe! Wake up!”

“Huh? What? What's wrong?”

Better just wake up, Bud. You're in it deep this time.

“Voice? Where the hell have you been? It's been months...”

France. But never mind that, you got bigger...

“Tim Joe!”

“OK OK, honey I'm awake. What's happening?” I sit up, then lay back down, fast. Too much sunshine for such a little room. The Blonde, in the snapshot I got before I pulled the covers back over my head, looks pissed. But not terminally pissed. That wasn't her terminally pissed face. Last time I saw her terminally pissed face I was in the back of a cop car, looking out through the window. I run a quick scan of the night before, trying to figure out my crime. I suddenly realize I am naked. She kicks the side of the bed.

“What's this about cocaine and skanky women?” she asks. Oh, man, I feel sick.

Stall. Beg for coffee.

“Oh, God honey, I don't know what you mean. Is there any coffee out there? I gotta get dressed.”

“This place is a wreck. Get your ass out of bed. I'll make some coffee, not that you deserve it.” The whole time I could hear her moving around the room. I didn't have to come out from under the covers to know that she was picking up, sorting the wreckage, straightening things out, all the while looking for clues.

OK, she's gone. Quick! Get up and put your pants on. And splash some water on your face. You look like you fell out of the back of a pickup truck.

This snaps me awake, fully awake. Fell out of the back...wait a minute...

The Intermodal Cyclist
Man, what a day! There's a gator hole south of town in a little place called the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. At least I think that's what they call it. Only wildlife down there is usually me and my buddies and some beer and fishing poles and so on. The day started with me getting into the cab of my truck and reaching for the keys when it dawned on me that it was 72 degrees outside, the sky was perfectly clear and the only wind was a gentle breeze tickling the tops of the palm trees. It further dawned on me that I had a perfectly good 1981 Schwinn Super LeTour with a new rear tube and a newly lubed chain. Ten minutes later I was reaching for my Goodwill Messenger Bag, stuffing in some trail mix (not really. I never have trail mix. But I always look) and swung my leg over the saddle and settled in. Man, it was just like riding a bike...

I already knew that the bus would be at the stop in front of the Whispering Pines at nine o'clock. The gator hole is about thirty miles south of the Park and I have made that ride many times, but today would be a long one and I had friends waiting.

A Scary Magic Carpet
If you ride urban transit in big cities, the bus never has a chance to get up too much speed, I guess. But Old Highway One south of Hawks Park has long empty stretches of open road and the bus goes FAST. It's a wild ride, blasting along at sixty with a giant windshield framing Little Miss Dangerous as she hangs on for dear life on the rack on the front of the bus. It's only a matter of minutes until fifteen miles have melted away and I am getting off the bus at the Dollar General store in Oak Hill. I take my bicycle off the rack. The bus stop is on a slight rise above the parking lot and I just stand on the pedal and coast down to the entrance. There's an old fart with a fuzzy little dog on a leash sitting out front in the morning sunshine.

“What kind of mileage does that thing get?” Some kind of Yankee accent.

“About twenty miles a can,” I say. I can smell the river. I'm only about fifteen miles from a place I consider Paradise. There will be smiling friends and ice cold beer and manatees and pelicans. I figured out many, many years ago that if you are somewhere where you can see a pelican, you're probably doing it right. I go into the store. I go straight to the beer cooler. I know where it is. I grab eight 16 oz Budweisers in cans (no glass at the bridge!) and take them to the counter. This is not a first time experience for me. I glance wistfully at the packages of trail mix displayed there next to the checkout. One of these days...

Shiloh
And then, just like that, I'm pedaling south, cruising at about fifteen mph on a freshly paved road. There is zero traffic down here, this time of day. I own the road. The phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Where ya at, cracker?”

“Shiloh. I'm riding my bike.”

“Yeah, right. Hurry up. Nothin's bitin' here and we're going down to Haulover.”

“OK. I'll be about a half hour.”

“A half hour? What the hell...you mean you really rode your bike all the way down here? Hey, y'all! Dumbass Old Man Tim is on his bicycle!”

“Not so old I can't smack your ass around once I get there.” This is going to be a great day. Hell it already is a great day.

“Alright, we'll be under the bridge, pumpkin, make it quick. Don't have a heart attack.”

Good advice. East Coast Johnny stands about five-four and weighs about a hundred and fifty...but that's a hundred fifty pounds of tightly wrapped gristle and grit and red-headed menace. I'll throw him in the canal, maybe. Right now I feel like singing some Merle Haggard songs but I can't remember any. Not all my rowdy friends have settled down, just yet. I sure haven't.

I can see the drawbridge up ahead. Too bad. That was too short a ride on such a perfect day. But I still have the ride back. Little did I know...

Meanwhile, Back At The Trailer Park...
“Here's your coffee. I'm not cleaning up this mess. You're lucky you didn't burn the trailer down. Now I want to hear why you texted me at work at two in the morning saying you were leaving me and going to run off to the woods and spend the rest of your life snorting cocaine and dancing with skanky women. Are you crazy? I had a five hundred doughnut order to have ready by five a.m. and the last thing I need is your drunk ass sending me stupid messages that don't make any sense.”

“I have no idea what you mean. You know I don't do drugs. And I don't know any skanky women.” That's not entirely true.  I do live in a trailer park, after all.  But I did have a very vague (very vague) memory of East Coast and Josh over by the fire, hunkered down over something and giggling like idiots. For some reason I was on the porch roof at the time.  Now, the morning after, I knew without looking that my phone wasn't in my pocket. Those silly bastards...I wonder who else got some insane message from my phone at two a.m.?

“And who was that skinny little bitch with East Coast? And why do you look like you fell out of the back of a truck?”

Oh yeah...

“Well, honey, I'm sorry you had to work last night. We had a great day down at the bridge and one thing led to another...”

Man, What A Day!
I'm lying on my back in the dust. The biggest gator I have ever seen is a dozen yards away, looking me over. I can see Little Miss Dangerous in the back of East Coast's truck, fading away in a cloud of dust. Josh is in the back, hanging on to the toolbox, banging on the roof of the cab. I figure it's gonna hurt to get up, so maybe I'll just lie here awhile. The sky is really beautiful today. Maybe I'm dead. This place is certainly Heaven enough for me. I turn my head to look at the gator. That's the biggest damn gator I ever saw. He ain't movin'. Neither am I.

I can hear Johnny's truck turning around. I can hear them laughing all the way down the road. Silly bastards. I really love those dumb crackers. The big gator still hasn't moved, but I figure I better get up. Those fuckers might run over me just to see what happens. I start to dust myself off but it hurts so I stop.

I'm getting too old for this shit, but not today.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Redneck Refuge

March 31, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hawk In the Rain

Rain
The rain is falling steadily this wet afternoon in Jacksonville Beach as I shuffle across a huge empty lot, a few acres that separate the motel where I am staying from the Winn Dixie plaza where there is hot deli food and beer and also a little rum, a little rum for a wet Sunday in a town where it seems to rain all the time. I am sniffling and making strange sounds with my throat because I have had some odd sinus infection for a month now and I am getting used to being a sap head and it rains a lot in Jacksonville, Florida.

Raptor!
A beautiful red-tail hawk of some considerable size dive bombs the retention pond as I pass by; it is a big hawk and it lights in a dead tree next to the pond and shakes the rain from its feathers and cocks its head to look me over and I pause, here in the rain, to admire this wild raptor living here in this field. There is a homeless camp nearby with a soggy sleeping bag and a cold fire pit that only seems to make things worse and I turn and shuffle away. There is rum and beer and hot deli-cooked barbecue ribs and baked beans ahead.. As I cross the field I turn and look back at the hawk and he is still there.

Peaceful Easy Feeling, Interrupted
There was time in my life when, (still living in my old house near the beach after Number Two departed the premises), when I would be awakened every morning by cooing doves, love doves, I think; they would be there in the big cedar tree that sheltered the back patio where I could also hear the sound of the waves crashing on the beach and they were a pair, always there, always there...myself, no longer a pair, was somehow comforted by the cooing of the doves and I was happy for them. I was alone, then, but at least I had the doves.

Then one day, sitting in the sunshine on my back porch, sun-stunned and beer-soaked, there was a violent fluttering overhead and one of the doves landed throat-ripped at the base of the tree. I looked up and there it was, a fierce hawk on the lowest branch (only feet away) from where I sat. The hawk was glaring at me and looking down at the dead dove and I mentally willed the murderer to swoop down to claim its prize so I could wreak hateful vengeance on this intruder, this killer...

But the hawk flew away and I went over to the dove and picked it up. I didn't know what to do. It was dead. I took it out to the wild palmetto thicket behind my property and laid it under a small palm growing there. I didn't know what to do. It seemed then that the reality of my life crashed straight into me and I was alone, now, alone like the other dove and I knew that tomorrow that other dove would be alone in the cedar tree and I was also alone, now.

Sweet Adaline
This damnable Jacksonville rain dampens the world and I am tired. We have worked twenty days in a row and I am beginning to wonder when it will end. The clerk at the liquor store looks like maybe he was once in a barber shop quartet and his jolliness fails to change my mind about the rain but I appreciate his effort. I trundle back across the wet field with my food and drink and there he is, the hawk, there he is and I am glad to see him. I don't know why.

As I step into my room I suddenly think about my brother. I was leaving a liquor store in sunny St. Petersburg one afternoon over a decade ago, smiling about some witty remark I had made to the guy behind the counter. I heard a voice say “There's my brother, smiling in the sunshine.” I have told this story before but I don't care. Every time I see a hawk I remember my brother and that moment in the sun and I don't know why. They are not connected, as far as I know; hawks, I mean, and my brother. But I had those doves once and a hawk took one of them away and made me more aware of my loss and sorrow and for some reason hawks make me think of my lost brother and this rain, this damnable rain makes me something of a brother to that hawk here today, in the rain.


I Am, After All, A Cyclist
What does any of this have to do with bicycles, with two wheels, with the long road? Well, nothing; and everything. Out there, sleek and tight-wrapped in our road clothes (our plumage of destruction) we are each (in our way) hawks. We fly swiftly and with gentle malice along our swift trails and we are raptors, of a sort; we roadies, we fast-runners...not the mountain crowd, today, I mean lean bicycles and dedicated suffering and joy on the tarmac and flying is our business and yeah, I have somehow lost my way and my road bike has been gathering dust in the corner, with a flat tire.

My brother has been gone for many years now and I never did learn why. But when I went to pick up the stuff he left behind out on the balcony of his lonely apartment there was a beat up old ten speed. It was a thing he learned from me, I remember, to always keep a ten speed handy. I never quite knew why but I always had one and so did he, my little brother.


And Finally...
This damnable rain makes for these times of sweet melancholy and I am not sorry for the dove, the lost dove nor for my lost brother; this is the way of the world and it is how it should be, I think. But I will soon enough begin to get my road bike back up strong and hawk-like and she will get gears and I will clothe myself in proper garb and I will once again take to the road, the long road of the far rides and once again pursue the answers that I seek; maybe there on the long road I can resume my search for the hawk and the dove and the answer to all of this, this rain and a hawk in the rain and the job of the long rider.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Weather Report
March 4, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stingray

Robot Chickens
It was probably around 1979 and I was standing down at Mallory Square in Key West with the rest of the misfits and tourists watching the sun go down and tippling from a sneaky flask of rum when this bedraggled dude in long cutoff jean shorts and no shirt or shoes and hair way down his back came cruising up on a red bicycle of indefinite pedigree. It had Stingray handlebars and a straight diamond frame and it was a single speed and the dude was standing erect on the pedals and the high handlebars allowed him to be erect and somehow noble as he cruised up to the scene; this monster circus at sundown that was Key West back then, back before it got Disney-fied and hyper expensive and now there are cruise ships and I even think the chickens may be mechanized or robotic; who can tell?

But this bicycle caught my eye because it was a Stingray, really, a grown-up Stingray (although grownups were scarce in that milieu in those days, we were mostly there on nefarious cowboy business or just there to drink, hard.) But that big kid's Stingray caught my eye because of the way that hippie/pirate was cruising up to the pier and the color red and just..in the ambiance of the moment and my substance-stunned state of mind I flashed back in time to my first bicycle, my first REAL bicycle, a custom something chopped into the 1962 version of what would become perhaps the most iconic bicycle in American History: the Schwinn Stingray.

Crazed
In those Key West days I was caught up in the ten speed craze and rode god knows what; Walmart wasn't around then and if it was I didn't know about it. We got our bicycles from Sears, probably, but my ten speed was just some bicycle I picked up somewhere for five or ten dollars. All I remember is that it was gold. I didn't ride that much. But all my life I have had only a handful of times without a bike. I have always had a bicycle. If it got a flat it sat in the corner until some benevolent soul came along and offered to fix it. I was into cars and motorcycles then and a bicycle was...I don't know what. I just always made sure I had a bicycle.

But years later I became something of a bicycle genius (Hey! No laughing!) OK, I learned a lot more about bicycles and became a cyclist and a slayer of sorts and bragged about it on and on and on on here and always there was that image, that pirate bicycle back in the glory years when I was cool (hey! I said no laughing!) and life held promise and I remembered that guy on that big Stingray. Being slightly more knowledgeable than I was in '79 I pondered on this and stared at my old '93 Mongoose Alta and then one day, lugging a big bag of empty liquor bottles and aluminum beer cans to the trailer park dumpster I came across a derelict comfort bike and it had BMX style bars and I grabbed them and put them on the Goose.

They are still there. The Goose, eight years mine now, has achieved the look of a Stingray and as I type this, I realize that my “ten speed,” Me Little Darlin', my '81 Schwinn Super Le Tour, is sitting in the corner with a flat rear tire.

I Didn't Do It
Guilt is a funny thing. It hits you from all sides and it can cripple you, it can blow you asunder and make you feel like hell. We all know it, this guilt, we all know that it is all our fault and we don't deserve to live and the world would have been better off if we had never been born. Inanimate objects and beloved pets will really kick your feet out from under you. Here's why: we can argue with our kids and spouses and bosses, we can lay down seasoned lines of reasoned thought that clearly show that we are right and if that fails, we can resort to shouting and violence and let the cops and the lawyers sort it out.

But an anthropomorphisized bicycle or goldfish don't get it. They don't understand and they only know that their water smells like pee and that they have a flat tire and why won't you fix me and at least ride me around the block?

I may be losing my mind.

I Have Custody
Toby the Trouble Puppy and Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog are with me here at the Park for a couple days. I have visitation, it seems. The Blonde and I didn't split up, exactly. We just live in different places now. Because of my extended time out of town working, the dogs stay with her. But they are with me now and in true Weekend Dad fashion they are being spoiled horrendously, steaks and dog treats and so much belly-rubbing and ball tossing and benadryl-laced macaroons that they might as well be staggering along the pier in Key West a vast long time ago.

Toby is some kind of Jack Russel-Pit mix and given to the shivers. He has found one of the few patches of sunlight in my deeply shaded yard and rests there now in this cold Florida afternoon, a sweet little patch of chilled sunshine with warm dirt and a big fern shading his gaze. Miss Daisy, an elderly Yellow Lab who has been with me since she could fit into the palm of my hand, is back in her favorite place: curled up at my feet and listening to her old favorite noise of a clicking keyboard and antique jazz.

Meanwhile
Me? Hell, I'm not losing my mind, I'm finding it. I'm working my way back home to those days when all it took was a sunny afternoon and my old Stingray, the sound of my breathing as I pedaled standing up across little hills and open fields, headed nowhere, headed here; headed to that place where we have sorted out our crimes and our guilt and our sadness and our joy and all of it, all of it, is just a shadow in the sunshine.

So Anyway
Later, soon, I will jump on my big-kid Stingray and pedal fast to the store for more beer. Little Miss Dangerous will get her tire fixed, soon enough; but right now I am back at work and it ain't easy and it interrupts my search and so, now, I grab my fun wherever I can get it. I will grab my fun and I got just the bike to do it, I have the bicycle for the job.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Observatory

January 17, 2014

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Terrapin Station

Another Trip to the Vet
At a little after ten in the morning I gotta stop for a moment and pull off a couple layers. The morning started chilly, maybe forty-five degrees, but the sun is up and running now and it is warming up just fine. This ride was planned as an intermodal bus/bicycle combo fast run, but due to the lackadaisical schedules of the local mass transit and my general lack of patience it turned into a fast run by bike only. Fine with me, except for my persistent yearning for some kind of Pony Express style rapid transit that has me swinging down from the bus or train with my bicycle already half launched as I leap into the saddle and barrel off to the next station.

While I stuff the layers of fleece and cotton into my Goodwill Messenger Bag a glint from some bright reflected light catches the corner of my eye. My first bus stop of the morning is across from our little airport. We are a quaint and artistic tourist trap and quite humble. But we also got one of these:


Is that thing gorgeous, or what?! Man. I have another twenty minutes before the terrapin bus is due, so I walk across the morning highway for a closer look. Wow.


Return to Forever
Going back to the bench, I notice an advert for bi-plane rides. Being an inveterate bi-cycle junkie I pause to reflect on the whole Wright Brothers thing. Seven minutes have passed and the bus is still a ways off, behind me. I notice that Little Miss Dangerous is looking a little less ladylike than when I did a full rebuild and paint over a year ago. But what of that? Like her owner, Little Miss lives close to the street and is a bit of the rough and ready kind. Plus, neither of us is getting any younger. Also, as near as I can tell, that damn bus ain't getting any closer.


Whatever
I grab my rag-tag single-speed antique, swing my bag over my shoulder and hit a lick. My goal: Beat the bus to the Transfer Station, ten miles away. I'm headed for my bi-annual checkup at the VA Clinic. They are convinced I am borderline cardiac-bound; (at least their charts and machines say so) but when I tell them I just rode over twenty-five miles in traffic in under two hours they get a little confused, then close my folder and send me on my way.


Reality
I'm stroking North and I'm weak as hell. I have not ridden even two or three miles a day since starting work again and my butt is reminding me of this fact, but my legs are strong. I spend a lot of my work day standing in a hi-lift installing the framing on these McD's that have taken over my existence. There is no walking involved, but in that basket you are like a sailor at sea; there is a constant subtle movement and you are always balancing and bobbing about and also, we lift very heavy sheets of plywood using only our upper bodies and we attach these sheets with a multitude of screws that do not want to go in all that well. It's hard and goes on for ten hours a day and as I pedal firmly and with malice over the three bridges north of town (on my way to be told that I am old and tired) I feel pretty good. My legs are good and I am breathing pretty good and except for my butt, we're getting there just fine.



The Truth Cannot Be Escaped
But I am an experienced cyclist and I know the truth: I'm strong now but as a cyclist I know: it won't last. I'm secretly weak as hell but I'm out in front of the bus with a thirteen minute head start and I'm kickin' hard and if I lose it, I can always get on the bus. It is early and the bridge fishermen are pulling in and getting their rigs ready. The seagulls, always rowdy, are doing their thing, ripping around overhead and demanding their fair share and far away, over the crystal water shining her morning colors is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, old, an old structure, old before we were born and still here, brick-solid and stunning and a reminder that sometimes, maybe, things last longer than we thought they might and that Lighthouse is still there and so am I and so is Little Miss Dangerous and we're blasting along on the other side of the bridges now and I have to be slick and smart and careful or morning traffic will put an end to all this longevity I am bragging about.

Survival Is Everything
These painted bike lanes are insane and when I'm doing this run to the Clinic I ride like I never do. I use the bike lanes and practice vehicular riding and obey the laws and I also find myself pedaling really fast, way faster than I would on my fun rides. This is commuting and I guess I could get used to it, but I don't plan to try. It isn't that far now to the bus transfer station. I'm in three lanes of morning traffic and I can't help but wish I was somewhere else, preferably with a beer in my hand. But I'm almost there.

Oh, By the Way...
I bought a truck. My original choice was a little Nissan pickup but one afternoon, late in the year when the first welcome cool breezes begin to feather down from the North I was out on my big loop country ride, beside myself with the inherent pleasures of country and solitude and being on my bicycle after weeks away. I was lost in that Other Place I go to when it is all just right: the ambient temperatures, the quiet of the road and a mellow wind; the mesmerizing tempo of a steady and absent cadence...and, as usual, there she was. It always works this way. You just know when it's right. A well-aged 1984 Ford F150. There was no question. I took out my bedraggled much-folded scrap of notepaper and copied down the phone number. The two-thousand dollar price on the windshield meant nothing. This was my truck and I would buy her for fifteen-hundred dollars, which (of course) I did.



Doesn't she look fine in that dramatic night shot, perched on a big flatbed tow truck? I think so. That is a shot of her, after a month of diligent service hauling me and my tools to various jobs around Florida, on her way to have a new transmission installed. As an honorary good ol' boy, I am an ad hoc member of a hillbilly network that can get such things done cheap. The tow truck cost nothing, and the new transmission, a unit built for a 5.0 Mustang that had to leave town before receiving its new tranny, cost a painful yet affordable $750. And so, as I predicted, I am earning again and saving but also an owner of a motor vehicle. They are insatiable. And yet...

HA!
There it is: the Votran Bus transfer station. I did it. I beat the bus, again. As I pull up, I hear the terrapin coming up from behind. I just barely beat it. And this is only the transfer station, the VA Clinic is still another five miles away. But I have plenty of time, after that sprint. I can poke along and cool down and make it to the Clinic with plenty of time. If my new Old Truck was available, instead of out in a barn getting a new hot rod transmission put into her, would I have driven her here, or would I have rode my bicycle? I don't know. As a dedicated cyclist, I have a rule: I only drive for work, when I must carry my quarter ton of tools from job to job. Everything else I do by bicycle.

But I really love my truck. I love cruising to the job, windows down and radio playing, my left arm out the window. I feel quintessentially American and redneck and somehow honest all at the same time. But gas is VERY expensive and I am, after all, saving hard for the seed money for Comstock Farms, even if it is only one trailer on one acre...I'm saving...

So...
Here's what I did: I took some of my earnings and rented a twelve by twenty four foot storage unit about three miles from the Whispering Pines. I put almost all my stuff in there and I park my truck there when I am home from the road. So if I want to drive somewhere, first I have to ride three miles to the storage unit. It works. I still ride everywhere. My cool old truck sleeps inside when she is not on duty and I still ride everywhere.

And, Finally:
My new doctor at the VA was lecturing me about my cholesterol and my drinking and my blood pressure and something called Metabolic Syndrome but when I told him I had just come twenty five miles fast by bicycle and had twenty five more to go, fast, to beat the sundown...

Well, you know.

tj


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blame It On Pythagoras

And Once Again
As an elderly man of this the Hyborean Age, it falls upon me to tells tales of might and woe and also beer drinking. Might and woe I ain't so sure about, but beer drinking I know and also do I know about hard work and pain. I once was quoted as saying “there can be no art without pain” and while what I am currently involved in doing might not be art, there is at least plenty of pain. So maybe it is art after all but that is not what I came here to talk about; in fact, I have no idea what I want to say but as usual, you can count on me to say it anyway.

There's This
One of the things I always worked hard at teaching my various offspring were these little nuggets that I magically called “Secrets of the Universe” to make them sound enticing but really they were just the stuff of common sense, another thing that has involved pain and loss in my real reality but whatever the case, the Pythagorean Theorem is about as real as it gets and there is also Pi to consider. So there ya go.


And Then Again
Meanwhile, the Trailer Park Cyclist pedaled this morning; again in the predawn to the local coffee place for a mug and an apple fritter. Enjoying a momentary lapse of work, he then came home, drank the coffee, ate the fritter, pondered the Universe and then looked over in the corner of the trailer to where sat his forlorn and neglected Little Miss Dangerous, his Little Darlin', his 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour bicycle, the partner of many a long ride, many adventures and much guilt.

There were clouds in the sky and rain foretold: and yet...

The Rest of the Story
Well, I rode. Worn out yet restless, I rode. The saddle beckoned and hurt my butt. The pedals were mired in some kind of glue and every little bump was painful. But I rode and the sky opened and the rain fell and the thunder rang and yes, there was lightning and it would have been disastrous and dismal but somehow, it was perfect: this is Florida and the rain was warm and my road was empty: rain-drenched and exhausted and recharged I plowed my way home and soaked up a hot shower and cracked a beer (and poured a shot) and here am I to tell about it.

And This...
What's to tell? Oh, just this: there are secrets in the universe and one of them is that the more it hurts the better it feels and also, sooner or later, pain pays off and another thing: A squared plus B squared equals C squared and 3.14 is a magic number.

Yer pal, Old Tim Joe

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Mirrors
November 15, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Consider the Bee

Message In A Bottle
OK. I'm typing in the dark by the light of the screen reflected on the computer keys. I'm typing in the dark because I moved my work table back to the back of the trailer before leaving town for another bout of McDonald's remodeling and yet tonight I am sitting in the front of the trailer where I get a smidgen of intermittent pirate wi-fi. I am typing in my underwear and so I don't want to turn on any lights because I don't want to put my pants on.

So there is that to consider. Today I sat a bike (the Goose) for the first time since Labor Day and I am currently a bit insane as a result. Tomorrow that will change when I do my country loop McLarge (34 miles) and then I am going to come home and get drunk as hell. Then (shudder) Monday I will wake up, take a cold shower, drink a gallon of McCoffee and then: I'm going to buy a truck.

How Far I Have Fallen
There, I said it. I don't like it and I was hoping somehow to get around it but there is no escaping the fact that I will buy a motor vehicle on Monday and that may be the End of the Fun. But I gotta do it; today it cost me a hundred bucks to get from Orlando to home, a fifty mile ride. Forty dollars gas for my girlfriend's SUV and breakfast for me and the girlfriend and I gave her some money for her trouble and then beer (and that is running out fast) and so on...

How long, O Lord?

As long as it takes, apparently. I looked at a decent little Nissan pickup on the way in from the Road and following my policy of Riding the Least Bike, I will try to purchase the least truck and that fifteen year old little piece of tin looks pretty least to me. I'm sighing inside but it is all part of the big picture.

Whatever the hell that means.

Viva Las Vegas
So I can't say much about cycling except that it is Interbike Week again and I ain't there (again) even though I keep expecting to be invited out there to Vegas for the big show; it has been thirty years since the last time and I'm pretty sure they forgot all that stuff that happened and there is the statute of limitations and so on...

But whatever. I look forward to the pictures and there are some pretty exciting things coming from the usual sources like Surly and Velo Orange and once again it will be about bigger tires and common sense, rare developments for the cycling world and long overdue.

For What It's Worth
Me? Good Lord. I am involved in so much disaster and conflict and sweat and blood and tears all in the name of Money and McDonald's that I really don't know where to begin. I mean, there is blood on the keyboards, not from some maniacal pursuit of my art (for what it's worth) but instead because our boss tried to save a couple bucks and bought really cheap plywood screws and so when you use one of these new impact drivers to put them in and the screw slips you jam the pointy screwdriver tip into your thumb or forefinger. It hurts really bad the first time but after the hundredth time you just giggle and cry at the same time and thank the heavens that you are not a brain surgeon or violinist in your spare time because your fingers are swollen and mushy and holding a cup of coffee in the morning is a monumental challenge.


No Sugar Tonight
I'm not tanked up enough right now to wax poetic and I really don't have anything worth saying but I miss you guys and wanted to say hello and goodbye and see ya soon and so on...it is all about people, I think, the people. I am part of a crew that I don't lead and it is a new thing, this following. But that is gradually turning around as it always does; I learned many years ago that sometimes the best way to lead is by being the best fucking follower they ever saw and by pushing firmly from behind. Not that I have much desire to be the boss; but look, the least I can do is buy the right kind of screws and also there is unnecessary pain going round the crew; these guys need help of a different kind, a lot of unnecessary pain out there and that is one of the duties of a good leader: to make it as easy as possible for the crew to get the job done. It is easy and all it takes is a little organization and open ears and a little heart. None of those things are happening right now but I'm hacking away at it.

One of the hacks is to buy a truck so I am no longer a hitchhiker.

Consider the Bee
I was building a house once with a little crew (three men strong) and a carpenter bee was buzzing around the rafters we were setting and I watched as the morning progressed how quickly that little bee bored a hole in the fresh-cut pine of the roof framing; it didn't take long and I was coming down from the roof and was surprised and delighted to see how this tiny insect had created a home in the smallest part of the home we were building. It had chewed its way into a 2x8 rafter and I got a drink of cold water from the big jug and I thought about that bee. I have always remembered that bee and how good pure cold water tastes on a hot day when you are building.

I'm doing it again now and I am drinking the cold water from the big jug and remembering the bee. I am typing in the dark without my pants and drinking the last of the cold beer, it is late and tomorrow I will ride and I will consider the bee.

tj

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Apiary

September 21, 2013