What you really need

February 27, 2021 § 15 Comments

There is nothing like a little kid to remind you about what matters.

My two older grandsons had never been camping, so their dad and I decided to take them on a one-night camping trip.

At their home everyone speaks Japanese, so their English is definitely in developmental stage. Like everyone’s …

The plan was to drop them off at preschool on Thursday and pick them up at noon to drive up to the Angeles National Forest. They were so excited about the trip.

Note: Adults should not need a two-week excursion to Fiji to get excited about going somewhere.

At school that morning they ran up to their teacher. My oldest grandson said, “Camp!”

“Oh, you went camping last weekend?”

His response was one of the best and most concise expressions of English in the history of English. He said, “No. Camp. Fire. Fire sticks. Marshmallow. Do.”

Note: Adults can speak simply and clearly if they really want to.

We reached the campground and the boys jumped out of the car. They began scouring the campsite and immediately found discarded bottle caps. After a couple of hours they had a giant collection of them.

Note: Adults can find interesting things all around them if they only look. No shopping necessary.

We made hotdogs and then started a big campfire with the “fire sticks.” The boys enjoyed the hotdogs with amazing enthusiasm, and when they got to toast the marshmallows it was as if the finest dessert on earth had been prepared.

Note: Adults don’t need fancy food.

After the sun went down we all crawled into the tent. Everyone was very tired and cold. We lay there and slept deeply. Sometime very late that night, about 3 AM, my eldest grandson awoke, opened his eyes, and sighed happily to no one in particular, “It is so warm!” And then he went back to sleep, snuggled against his brother and dad.

Note: Adults should always snuggle.

The next morning up they popped and out of the tent they hopped. It was very cold. Instead of complaining, they ran over to the other side of the campground where the sun was shining and where it was warm. They sat on a rock and for a long time watched birds drinking water out of a small puddle.

Note: Adults should know that the best television is nature.

Next, we had hot chocolate and cereal. I broke camp, we packed up the car, and before leaving we all took a walk up a long dirt trail. The boys ran, skipped, and found countless rocks and sticks with which to play. The walk finished, we got in the car and drove home.

“When can we go again?” they asked.

END

Cycling and happiness: A longitudinal study

January 30, 2021 § 4 Comments

Abstract

It has been demonstrated that, on their own, both exercise and stimulation from the environment can improve cognitive function and well-being in sad fucks. The combined effect of exercising in the outdoor environment on psychological function is less well studied because it’s so fucking obvious. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of an outdoor cycling intervention on cognitive function and mental health and well-being in older adults. A total of 100 older adults took part in the study (aged 50–83), 26 of which were non-cycling controls, 36 were conventional nutjob cyclists and 38 were wankers too lazy to cycle and therefore using an e-bike (a bike fitted with an electric motor to provide assistance to ego without causing negative side effects such as tiredness, work, or effort), as part of a larger project (www.cycleboom.org). Participants took part in the study for an eight-week period, with nutjob cycling participants required to cycle at least three times a week for thirty minutes in duration for each cycle ride while not discussing wattage or Strava. Cognitive function and well-being were measured before and after the intervention period taking into account the disappointingly low cognition of cyclists to begin with. For executive function, namely inhibition (the Stroop task) and updating (Letter Updating Task), both cycling groups improved in accuracy after the intervention compared to non-cycling control participants. E-bike participants also improved in lying about how hard it actually was to ride an e-bike, processing speed (reaction times in go trials of the Stop-It task) after the intervention compared to non-cycling control participants. Non-cycling control participants, however, were never mocked for wearing clown suits or pretending that an e-bike was anything other than a motorcycle for frissies. Finally, e-bike participants improved in their mental health score after the intervention compared to non-cycling controls as measured by the SF-36. One key finding is that e-bikes when used for exercise tended to raise one’s value during insipid conversations with non-e-bikers. This suggests that there may be an impact of exercising in the environment on executive function and mental health. In other words, cyclists may be crazy, but thanks to cycling they are less so. Importantly, we showed a similar (sometimes larger) effect for the e-bike group compared to the pedal cyclists. This suggests that it is not just the physical activity component of cycling that is having an influence, but rather the endless capacity of people to delude themselves about what they are doing. As an analogue, post-study interviews revealed that most sagging cyclist participants still believed that they had a shot at the Tour. Both pedal cycles and e-bikes can enable increased physical activity and engagement with the outdoor environment with e-bikes potentially providing greater benefits since the beginning baseline is so pathetically low.

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Citation: Leyland L-A, Spencer B, Beale N, Jones T, van Reekum CM (2019) The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0211779. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211779

Editor: Maria Francesca Piacentini, University of Rome, ITALY

Received: March 13, 2018; Accepted: January 22, 2019; Published: February 20, 2019

Copyright: © 2019 Leyland et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: This research was part of the ‘cycle BOOM’ project (www.cycleboom.org), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/) under the UK Research Councils’ Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Programme (Grant Number EP/K037242/1), received by TJ and CvR. The funders had no role in

study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

END

Car travel

January 22, 2021 § 1 Comment

Always wondered how they transported it …

I was in the passenger seat today for four and a half hours. I had forgotten what it was like to travel by car. My last car trip was back from Houston to LA in 30 hours, a foggy blur of exhaustion, cold donuts, and lots of night.

This time I was fresh. Rested. Eager to get out and about. See the world. Experience things. In a words: Travel.

Here are some things I noticed acutely.

  1. No wind. The wind on a bike is your most beloved friend, your most hated foe, or some combination of the two. In a car the only wind you really notice is from last night’s pot of beans.
  2. Lethargy. Sitting saps energy, but it’s not the tiredness that comes from exertion. You are kind of numb and get number until either a) donuts or b) coffee or c) both.
  3. Only huge things. You only notice huge things in the car, which consists mainly of other cars, trucks, buildings, signs. There’s no fine-grained detail like there is on a bike, where you don’t simply see flashes of roadside garbage but the actual color, size, and brand of the wrapper.
  4. Blame casting. When anything happens it’s always their fault–the road contractor, the idiot driver, the horrible traffic jam. On the bike when you fall off at inopportune times, or basically when anything else untoward happens, it’s almost always YOU.
  5. Tiny skies. The windshield restricts, chokes off the sky. While cycling you see the whole thing in its unobstructed beauty.
  6. Cops. Never been pulled over for speeding or drug running on my bike.
  7. Gas. The gas station experience on a bike means “I got a couple of elderly fried burritos and they gave me gas.”
  8. Peeing. On a bike I can pee anywhere. And do. No exit ramps or searching for a tree or a gas station. Brake, zip, whizz.
  9. Rattling. Cars rattle. And when the road’s rough or you nail a chug hole, you feel all the fat jiggle. Bikes are much smoother and less jiggly.
  10. Impatience. In a car you’re impatient to get there. On a bike you’re grateful you ever got there at all.
  11. Stop-and-go. There’s almost no stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper bike traffic.
  12. Fighting. Have you ever been stuck in a car with someone you’re fighting with? Talk about claustrophobic. Never been in a fight on a bike ride, at least not for long, and certainly not with someone I’ve not been unable to escape from.
  13. Time travel. Cars go so fast you have zero appreciation of changing landscapes, scenery, weather … bam, you’re there.
  14. Parking. Haven’t yet had to circle the lot to find a parking space for my bike.
  15. Back and neck cricks. Cars are cramped and they also give you leg cramps. Everything is sore from sitting. When biking it’s mostly just your ass.

For all the whining, there was one part of the drive that I was glad to be in a car, a 14-mile steep uphill, twisting canyon climb with absolutely zero shoulder and plenty of zooming truck traffic. If I’d been biking I’d have chosen a different route, of course. But depending on the route, some roads are best driven, for sure.

END

Sourdough pancakes

January 10, 2021 § 12 Comments

It is axiomatic that a January cyclist seeking maximum recovery and preparation for a grueling 2022 season must, on Sunday, eat sourdough pancakes.

These li’l darlins are filled with cycling-rich nutrients such as carbs, fat, sugar, oil, lipids, sucrose, fructose, triacylglycerols, glycogen, and of course phospholipids and sterols. In fact, this coterie of diverse nutrients has been scientifically proven to comprise a complete meal sufficient for a Tour competitor or even more intensely, a Peloton/Zwift subscriber.

But how do you make them?

The easiest way is to go to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, wait for two hours, and then consume a plate of soggy non-sourdough pancakes with soggy bacon and frozen orange juice for $34.98 (tip not included). The next easiest way is to purchase pancake mix that takes all six IQ points out of measuring and mixing stale and dehydrated ingredients. The most difficult way, utilizing all six IQ points, is to make them yourself.

Which is what we did. This meal contains a total of 250 kcals, 100% of your RDA for fiber, and .05% of the RDA for butter, fat, processed sugar, and guilt. So you can eat it knowing that you are going to crush it on the next group ride in June!

Step 1: Grind that rye!
Scoop the goop!
Rye flour power!
Rise … and shine
Oooh, you salty boy!
The yolks, folks!
If you wanna make a pancake, ya gotta break an egg.
Resolutions are for 2022. Or 3.
Whip it good!
Teflon need not apply.
Batter, batter, whatsa matter?
For bacon ya better don yer apron.
Boil the oil.
(Don’t) Feel the burn.
Sourdough pancake messiah w/halo.
#bacondiet
Flip it good!
Sizzlin whizzlin!
So good for ya. Trust me.
Stack ’em, rack ’em, smack ’em.
Ye, though I walk in the valley of bacon.
I forgive you for you are about to sin.
That’s all, folks!

END

Lightning bolt

January 6, 2021 § 11 Comments

Have you ever lain in bed or sat on the couch waiting for a bolt of energy to invigorate you so that you could hop on your bike? Do the dishes? Start making the selection of which piece of junk gets to live and which gets to die before next week’s move?

Or what about THAT EMAIL?

You know, the one that sits in your inbox like Jabba the Hut, befouling every other email and your daily happiness as it dares you to tackle it? The one that’s been there since August?

Whatever the odious task, have you ever found yourself awaiting a visit from the Energy God? And then wondered why she never showed up? And then woken up the next day to find the same bike unridden, the same dishes besmirched, the same un-expanded cardboard moving box leaning against the bed?

The SAME Jabba the Hut in your inbox?

Well, there is reason that you cannot ride your bike when you are in bed or the recliner. It is because you are in the bed or the recliner, cf. Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch. The rule is simply that the more you sit, the more you sit.

The corollary? Equally succinct: The more you do, the more you do. It’s summed up in this well-worn adage: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

This is the first time since my early 20s that I’ve spent so much time in bed recovering from, well, anything. And what I’ve noticed is that the less I do, the less I want to do. What happened to the guy who started his day in an ice-tent with a cup of gruel and then faced down a 9-hour solo ride into the emptiness of the West Texas desert?

Where is the fellow who, after spending all day grinding himself into a pulp, propped himself up in a tiny tent and with one crooked finger typed out a daily 500+ word blog? And answered work emails? And work phone calls?

I’ll tell you where he is. He is in bed. And from the looks of things, unless that lightning bolt magically strikes, he’s not going to be leaving it any time soon.

END

That plastic thing is a cat laser toy.

Here they come again!

January 1, 2021 § 4 Comments

There is really only one new year’s resolution for cyclists. Everything else such as climb better, do more mileage, ride more consistently, train indoors in bad weather, eat better, do more long rides, do more intervals, all of that stuff is subsidiary to the one overwhelming, overriding, all-dominating wish of every cyclist ever, which is TO BE SKINNIER.

No matter that your ribs already show out from your back from a mile down the road, and no matter that you are still in the top one percent of all Americans for exercise, BMI, healthy eating, cholesterol, and everything else. Ya still gotta lose weight. However, none of the resolutions work, and that’s partly due to physics and partly due to reality, which are mirror images of the same thing.

When a cyclist makes a resolution, they don’t ever really mean what the words seem to mean. Below is a handy-dandy Cyclist’s New Year’s Resolution Translator so that you can help yourself or your partner to better understand what’s really going on in that confused jumble of a bicycling mind.

Resolution: I’m only eating cage free.
Translation: If it’s not in a cage it’s free to eat.

Resolution: I’m giving up refined carbs.
Translation: I’m all in on the rest of them

Resolution: I’m going to accept myself as I am.
Translation: As soon as I am the hottest fucking chick in the room.

Resolution: I’m going to watch what I eat very carefully.
Translation: I’ll be eating everything in the closet from now on.

Resolution: I’m going to lose ten pounds.
Translation: As long as I can do it without being hungry.

Resolution: I’m going to start eating healthy.
Translation: I’ll be eating everything I’m eating now with a sprig of celery and a leaf of lettuce.

Resolution: There will be a lot more greens at dinner.
Translation: We’re putting flowers on the table.

Resolution: I’m going to exercise every day.
Translation: I’m going to kill it at the gym tomorrow and take the rest of the year off.

Resolution: I’m going to have a more active lifestyle.
Translation: I’m going to move my couch an additional 5 feet away from the refrigerator.

Resolution: I’m going to start using a fitness tracker to exercise more.
Translation: After doing an exhaustive Internet search comparing and selecting the best technology available I’m going to use it for an alarm clock and turn it off every morning

Resolution: This year I’m going to run a marathon.
Translation: Over the course of the year my cumulative running distance will be 26.2 miles.

Resolution: I’m going to cut sugar out of my snacking.
Translation: I’m going to add it to everything else.

Resolution: I’m going to lose weight so that I can be healthy again.
Translation: I’m going to lose weight so that I can go clothes shopping again.

Resolution: I’m going to involve my partner in my healthier lifestyle.
Translation: We’re going to put bicycles on the back of our RV.

Resolution: I’m going to start taking walks every Sunday with my friends.
Translation: We are walking to the bar instead of driving.

Resolution: I’m going to drink less.
Translation: No fucking way.

Resolution: I’m going to find a fitness partner who can hold me accountable.
Translation: I am going to find someone lazier than I am.

Resolution: I’m going to get serious about cycling again.
Translation: I’m going to buy a new bicycle.

Resolution: I’m going to feel good about myself when I look in the mirror.
Translation: I’ll be focusing on the neck up.

Resolution: I’m going to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
Translation: Check out my FB feed with all those photos of how hot I used to be.

Resolution: I’m swapping out the beer belly for a six pack.
Translation: Of Coors.

Resolution: I’m going to get ripped.
Translation: Time for a steroid cycle.

Resolution: No more closet eating.
Translation: That’s why I have a car.

END

Turning points

October 11, 2020 § 23 Comments

Often, the turning points in our lives don’t come with signposts and are only clear in retrospect.

What were yours? What was that moment in your life when you decided to do something, or you impulsively acted, and after that nothing was really ever the same?

Mine was August 17, 2019. I had dropped off my youngest son for his final year of college in Santa Barbara and was sitting on the 101. I had gone about twenty-five miles. In three hours.

I thought about the thousands of hours of my life that had been spent in front of a windshield. I thought about the ugliness of the freeway. The unhappiness of every single stranded, caged occupant, of which I was one. I thought about how many more thousands of hours in my life I was going to spend repeating this quintessentially unhappy act of driving, and compared it with the total number of hours I actually had left to live.

The calculus hit me hard and I made up my mind: Never again in this life will I drive a car, and to the maximum extent possible I will avoid even sitting in one.

At that moment I wasn’t simply mired in traffic, I was mired in life. My 32-year-old marriage was falling apart. My friends were giving me a wide berth. My kids were angry at me, or worse, hurt, or worst, angry and hurt. It seemed like there was nowhere to go but down and downer.

Little did I know it, but that decision to get out of the well-worn groove carved in asphalt for me and every other Californian unable to imagine life without being chained to a steel cage, was something that would lead to a cascade of changes, the sum of which would redefine my life and what I wanted from it.

Liberation from the cage meant that every client meeting, every court appearance, every trip to the grocery store, every task that had previously been done in a cage powered by dead forests would now be done on a bike powered by glucose. That thing alone sheared away so many needless activities because now the act of getting around was reduced to its true cost: Not the cost of a gallon of gas, but the caloric cost of pushing a bike for miles through traffic.

Did I say traffic? That’s a wrong word, because on my bike there was no traffic, only cages that I got to peacefully ride by as they stewed like tomatoes at red lights, construction, entry ramps, parking lots, gas stations …

Once the cost of getting there gets measured in calories, you go a lot less to there, and once the cost of buying or moving things has to be converted into lugging it up a tall hill on a heavy bike, you buy and move a lot fewer things, and the things you move are lighter. Way lighter.

With fewer places to go and fewer things to buy and have, life started to de-clutter. Insoluble problems, too vast and complex to even understand, began resolving themselves if not into solutions, at least into clearly defined problems. And each pedal stroke seemed to draw the problem even more clearly. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a pretty big one.

People had told me since late adolescence that I was “angry.”

“So?” I responded to myself. “It’s an angry world out there.” And as Chaucer would say, “For leveful is with force force of-showve.” It’s permissible to meet force with force.

But once I gave up driving I began to see my anger as something more unusual than the standard rage of a pissed-off driver or a rude sales clerk or, more commonly, a jerky bike racer. And with a little help from a friend, I was able to pinpoint it as the anger that comes from being repeatedly beaten by a parent as a small child. I won’t go into the steps of this analysis, but let’s see if we can agree on this much: When you are beaten by the parent who loves you and protects you and whom you admire more than anyone on earth, it makes you mad.

It took a lot more pedaling before I came up with a solution, because things that happen when you’re young become who you are. You can’t un-beat the pain and you can’t un-live the anger; you certainly can’t unwind the years.

But for me it came as a revelation, a revelation that everyone around me already knew, that anger and lashing out, as painful as they are to the recipients, are really nothing more than insecurity about my own self-worth. When your value as a child is wrecked by violence, then, I think, your psyche reframes the ego as a thing that is strengthened by violence towards others–physical and/or emotional.

In a word, I was terribly insecure.

That was almost funny because my avocation, bike racing, was a forum where I went to great lengths to demonstrate the opposite of insecurity. Hard rides, group ride beatdowns, bitter road races, challenging fondos, all these things were fora where the trump cards were strength, discipline, mental fortitude, toughness, the very things that are stripped from you when you are beaten as a child.

Likewise, my vocation of lawyering was a battlefield where competition, adversarial contests, wit, and resourcefulness reigned supreme. And it was on one long commute to San Diego that I recalled the words of a great trial lawyer and criminal law professor, Michael Tigar, who said “Every trial lawyer is a towering ego tottering on the abyss of insecurity and failure.”

He didn’t say every great trial lawyer. He said every trial lawyer.

There were many hundreds of more miles pedaled, turning over these self-evident truths and trying to figure out where they led, or more precisely, how to untie the emotional knots that had been so tightly bound during my eventful childhood. That’s when I got what sounded like a crazy suggestion. If my problem was that I’d had my self-worth stripped away, why not build it back up, and do it with words, and do it myself?

In January of this year I started getting up every morning, going into the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and imagining my dad holding the four-year-old me in his arms. I waited until the picture was clear. I could see his big, black, bushy beard, his kind brown eyes, and could feel his strong arms cradling me in the crook of his elbow.

Then I closed my eyes and repeated this: “You are a good boy, Seth. You are a smart boy, Seth. I love you, Seth.”

And I did it for three or four minutes.

When I opened my eyes I realized that I felt better. My heart rate had dropped to almost nothing. My face had relaxed. I could stare at the guy in the mirror and see mostly the same person, but a little different, a little less tense. A little, very, very little, less angry.

I did this for a couple of months and though the anger melted slowly at first, after a few weeks I could feel it calving off like an iceberg into a boiling sea. When I finally stopped doing it, it was as if a huge cauldron had been cooled, and I knew it because things that heretofore would have whipped me into a frothing rage affected me little or not at all.

I began to have little or no reaction to politics. I stopped judging people as harshly, and eventually hardly judged anyone at all. I dissociated from all my social media accounts and eventually closed them. I found myself being quiet in groups, no longer on stage, no longer grasping for the brass ring of cynosure.

Most incredibly, I stopped screaming at motorists who tried to kill me, and eventually stopped even flipping them off.

With the covids came a cessation in recreational bicycle hostilities a/k/a group rides, and another piece of the picture came into focus: A lot of my enjoyment of cycling really had been anger management, finding an appropriate place to channel highly antisocial impulses and emotions. Once the group rides died, my quieted anger meant that I had no desire to join them once they started up again, however furtively.

The turmoil of the shattering marriage continued, but my angry reactions to its demise and my guilt at my responsibility for it dissipated the more I rode slowly and contemplated the relationship between anger and failure, anger and unhappiness, anger and the inability to see things as they really are. Because the real impediment to being angry is that it clouds reality, good and bad.

Anger clouds reality in a good way because it allows you to forge ahead where otherwise you’d quit and go home, but in a bad way because it allows people to deceive you as to their intentions. When the behavior of others was filtered through my anger, I couldn’t see them as they really were in relation to me, but only as they were in relation to my anger. Good people knew that and made allowances for it, but less good people used it to great manipulative advantage, made me their puppet, made me their dog.

Still pedaling, I took a rather long bicycle life, and 82 days later came back to a world that hadn’t changed much, but to a life that had changed irrevocably.

Turning points.

Who knew?

END


Supply
Demand
Give
Take
Wild
Civilized
Yours
Mine
Start
Finish
Organic
Contrived
Deficit
Surplus
Produce energy
Consume it
Want
Need

Listen to the music

August 28, 2020 § 8 Comments

One of the big realizations I had about life came when I was camped out three days in Marblemount, and not simply because they host the annual Sasquatch/Bigfoot Conference, this year Sept. 5-6 at the community center. I even texted Jack from Illinois (not his real name) to see if he was doing the keynote again. He confirmed, with the exciting news that Sasquatch would be attending via Zoom.

So this little town has things going for it.

What my little RV camp site had going for it, aside from the highway and malt liquor enthusiast kid beaters camped next door, was an available spot. It was pricey, $20 a night, but came with the one thing you can’t get at hiker-biker sites at the local state parks. That is, it came with music.

Not the kind that people play from their stereos, but the music that comes when you lie in your tent, all zipped up, and listen to their conversations, and the music that comes when they ask you where you’re going and what you’re up to, and you them.

Three days was a perfect break. The constant work of coffee, breakfast, break camp, ride, set up camp, eat, blog, sleep is reduced by orders of magnitude when you remove “ride,” “set up camp,” and “break camp” from the equation. The next few days featured nonexistent to spotty wifi-cellular coverage at best, so it was imperative to catch up on emails, comb my hair, and at least think about doing laundry. Which is overrated, I’ve found.

The myth of camping and the outdoors, that it is a place you go to get away from people, is an inverted reality. Camping and the outdoors are where you go to find intimate proximity with people. Individuated, cubicle-ized, glued to the screen “normal” life works to wholly cleave us from others. Nowhere is life more isolated than urban life, nowhere is life more glued to the sounds and farts of others than the outdoors.

At the campsite you are in their face and they are in yours. I was walking out of the public toilet when a man stopped me. Everyone had noted that I was on a bike. “Where are you coming from?”

“LA.”

“Wow. Where are you going?”

“I’m not sure. At first I was going to ride to Seattle and then take the train home. Then I was going to ride the Cascades-Sierra route down to Tecate, then over to San Diego and home. Then I realized I don’t technically have a home. So I dunno. Argentina?”

There was that brief pause where he scanned to determine the percentage recommended daily allowance of bullshit that was contained in my answer. “Wow,” he said.

“How about you?”

“I live in Longview, a couple hours’ drive from here. Camping and backpacking with my wife. Didn’t sleep great last night, though.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. A bit much partying going on to ever really fall asleep. These places …” he trailed off.

“That’s the music, man.”

“What is?”

“The drunks. And everyone else. You. Me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I left home, or non-home, thinking I was going somewhere, a place where I’d be mostly alone on my bike with my thoughts. About Mile 800 or so I realized that I wasn’t the first person to discover the coasts of California and Oregon, the redwoods, state parks, hiker-biker sites, wild camping. Not only that, but the roads and parks are filled with people doing a bit of discovery on their own.”

“So much drinking, though.”

“The alcohols are part of their journey. Used to be part of mine. There was a real alcoholman named Jacob in one of the parks who taught me a lot as he cycled through The Program.”

“What program?”

“The Real-Anon Program.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a program for people who suffer from sobriety, from an unhealthy attraction to reality. Billions of people are born with this disease, it’s genetic, causing you to seek out smells, sights, the touch of the real world, causing you against your will to seek spiritual fulfillment with your five senses, your soul, your mind, and the community of the other realiholics around you.”

“You’re yanking my chain.”

“But realiholicism pulls you away from the true reason we exist, which is to hunt for, kill, bottle, and drink the alcohols. So the Real-Anon Program exists to help realiholics stay away from all the messiness of reality.”

“What is this program?”

“It only has one step, a stagger, actually: Drink the alcohols.”

He laughed. “You’re trying to be funny, but it’s kind of true.”

“I’m not trying to be funny. Real-Anon meetings are held hourly all over America. The entire refrigerated side of most convenience stores is dedicated to Real-Anon sufferers, there to speedily help them get back on track with The Step. I mean, the stagger. They call that side of the store the Alcowall.”

“It is kind of omnipresent.”

“It has to be. If you are a realiholic, you can without warning fall into literature, poetry, music, or dog forbid, healthy relationships. Sobriety sneaks up on you, you say you’ll only be sober for an hour or two, or until lunch, and next thing you know you’re a Mormon. Real-Anon is there to make sure you are never more than two stumbles away from a ten-day bender with blackouts and unprotected sex. In The Big Black Book they’re called the alcosprawl and the alcoball.”

“So you think we are a nation of drunks?”

“Absolutely not. We are a nation of realiholics, desperately trying to feel, see, and make sense of real phenomena, including our own lives. The only way to effectively combat this is with a program that makes sure you are always able to quickly consume the alcohols. Work, church, cycling clubs, hunting buddies, cheerleader moms, they all exist to help the realiholic stay shit-faced from dawn to dusk.”

“Who started this program?”

“He was an anyonymous realiholic named Robert. He had literally come to the last house on the block. He’d ruined his life with marriage, family, kids, grandkids, and a chubby 401k. Nothing to look forward to. All of his hobbies were fulfilling, he had an ideal BMI, only ate whole grains, and even did yoga … better than his wife.”

“Wow. That is a living hell.”

“Oh, yes. And he constantly broke the Women’s Rule of Men: “Your partner may never be skinnier than you.” Anyway, just as he was about to die happily, he discovered the alcohols. And it saved his life. Within a month he was divorced, broke, homeless, and mostly unconscious in a gutter. But he somehow wrote the Big Black Book, which sets forth all the stuff you need to know.”

“Like what?”

“Well, first, The Step. I mean, the stagger. Then just a list of basic concepts since, once you’re on the program, you can’t really read or remember anything anymore, nor do you need to. For example:

  • Alcofall: What you do after imbibing enough of the alcohols.
  • Alcohaul: Scoring more alcohols after the stores are closed.
  • Alcocrawl: Making your way to the place where you deposit your used alcohols in the porcelain tank to make space for the fresh ones.
  • Alcostall: This is a twofer; means toilet and is also what you tell someone to delay a task you’re supposed to do so you can drink more alcohols.
  • Alcoball: Taking off your clothes with a partner but being unable to do anything.
  • Alcosmall: What happens to men after alcoholing.
  • Alcopall: Permanent face color. Most pronounced in the mornings. Also called “Camp Face.”
  • Alcothrall: Vacant gaze of bliss that goes over your face when you catch your first alcohols of the day, usually before 8:00 AM, always before 9.
  • Alcogall: Dual meanings. The taste in your mouth the next morning; also, outrage when realiholics criticize your drinking of the alcohols.
  • Alcotrawl: Looking for sex partners who are also sufficiently alcoholed to consider you as a potential hookup.
  • Alcodrawal: Physical reaction to being deprived of the alcohols more than 90 minutes.
  • Alcobrawl: Altercation that results when one person has drunk up all the alcohols while you were doing an alcocrawl to the alcostall.
  • Alcomaul: Vicious beating after saying something incoherent to another alcoholer.
  • Alcoscrawl: Signature at the admissions desk of the rehab center.
  • Alcodoll: Appearance of all women after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.
  • Alcodrawl: Incoherent muttering after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.

“There are a lot more,” I said. “But once you’re on the program none of them matter.”

My interlocutor walked off. Later that afternoon I saw him emptying his beer cans in the sink.

END


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Listen to the music

August 15, 2020 § 8 Comments

One of the big realizations I had about life came when I was camped out three days in Marblemount, and not simply because they host the annual Sasquatch/Bigfoot Conference, this year Sept. 5-6 at the community center. I even texted Jack from Illinois (not his real name) to see if he was doing the keynote again. He confirmed, with the exciting news that Sasquatch would be attending via Zoom.

So this little town has things going for it.

What my little RV camp site had going for it, aside from the highway and malt liquor enthusiast kid beaters camped next door, was an available spot. It was pricey, $20 a night, but came with the one thing you can’t get at hiker-biker sites at the local state parks. That is, it came with music.

Not the kind that people play from their stereos, but the music that comes when you lie in your tent, all zipped up, and listen to their conversations, and the music that comes when they ask you where you’re going and what you’re up to, and you them.

Three days was a perfect break. The constant work of coffee, breakfast, break camp, ride, set up camp, eat, blog, sleep is reduced by orders of magnitude when you remove “ride,” “set up camp,” and “break camp” from the equation. The next few days featured nonexistent to spotty wifi-cellular coverage at best, so it was imperative to catch up on emails, comb my hair, and at least think about doing laundry. Which is overrated, I’ve found.

The myth of camping and the outdoors, that it is a place you go to get away from people, is an inverted reality. Camping and the outdoors are where you go to find intimate proximity with people. Individuated, cubicle-ized, glued to the screen “normal” life works to wholly cleave us from others. Nowhere is life more isolated than urban life, nowhere is life more glued to the sounds and farts of others than the outdoors.

At the campsite you are in their face and they are in yours. I was walking out of the public toilet when a man stopped me. Everyone had noted that I was on a bike. “Where are you coming from?”

“LA.”

“Wow. Where are you going?”

“I’m not sure. At first I was going to ride to Seattle and then take the train home. Then I was going to ride the Cascades-Sierra route down to Tecate, then over to San Diego and home. Then I realized I don’t technically have a home. So I dunno. Argentina?”

There was that brief pause where he scanned to determine the percentage recommended daily allowance of bullshit that was contained in my answer. “Wow,” he said.

“How about you?”

“I live in Longview, a couple hours’ drive from here. Camping and backpacking with my wife. Didn’t sleep great last night, though.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. A bit much partying going on to ever really fall asleep. These places …” he trailed off.

“That’s the music, man.”

“What is?”

“The drunks. And everyone else. You. Me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I left home, or non-home, thinking I was going somewhere, a place where I’d be mostly alone on my bike with my thoughts. About Mile 800 or so I realized that I wasn’t the first person to discover the coasts of California and Oregon, the redwoods, state parks, hiker-biker sites, wild camping. Not only that, but the roads and parks are filled with people doing a bit of discovery on their own.”

“So much drinking, though.”

“The alcohols are part of their journey. Used to be part of mine. There was a real alcoholman named Jacob in one of the parks who taught me a lot as he cycled through The Program.”

“What program?”

“The Real-Anon Program.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a program for people who suffer from sobriety, from an unhealthy attraction to reality. Billions of people are born with this disease, it’s genetic, causing you to seek out smells, sights, the touch of the real world, causing you against your will to seek spiritual fulfillment with your five senses, your soul, your mind, and the community of the other realiholics around you.”

“You’re yanking my chain.”

“But realiholicism pulls you away from the true reason we exist, which is to hunt for, kill, bottle, and drink the alcohols. So the Real-Anon Program exists to help realiholics stay away from all the messiness of reality.”

“What is this program?”

“It only has one step, a stagger, actually: Drink the alcohols.”

He laughed. “You’re trying to be funny, but it’s kind of true.”

“I’m not trying to be funny. Real-Anon meetings are held hourly all over America. The entire refrigerated side of most convenience stores is dedicated to Real-Anon sufferers, there to speedily help them get back on track with The Step. I mean, the stagger. They call that side of the store the Alcowall.”

“It is kind of omnipresent.”

“It has to be. If you are a realiholic, you can without warning fall into literature, poetry, music, or dog forbid, healthy relationships. Sobriety sneaks up on you, you say you’ll only be sober for an hour or two, or until lunch, and next thing you know you’re a Mormon. Real-Anon is there to make sure you are never more than two stumbles away from a ten-day bender with blackouts and unprotected sex. In The Big Black Book they’re called the alcosprawl and the alcoball.”

“So you think we are a nation of drunks?”

“Absolutely not. We are a nation of realiholics, desperately trying to feel, see, and make sense of real phenomena, including our own lives. The only way to effectively combat this is with a program that makes sure you are always able to quickly consume the alcohols. Work, church, cycling clubs, hunting buddies, cheerleader moms, they all exist to help the realiholic stay shit-faced from dawn to dusk.”

“Who started this program?”

“He was an anyonymous realiholic named Robert. He had literally come to the last house on the block. He’d ruined his life with marriage, family, kids, grandkids, and a chubby 401k. Nothing to look forward to. All of his hobbies were fulfilling, he had an ideal BMI, only ate whole grains, and even did yoga … better than his wife.”

“Wow. That is a living hell.”

“Oh, yes. And he constantly broke the Women’s Rule of Men: “Your partner may never be skinnier than you.” Anyway, just as he was about to die happily, he discovered the alcohols. And it saved his life. Within a month he was divorced, broke, homeless, and mostly unconscious in a gutter. But he somehow wrote the Big Black Book, which sets forth all the stuff you need to know.”

“Like what?”

“Well, first, The Step. I mean, the stagger. Then just a list of basic concepts since, once you’re on the program, you can’t really read or remember anything anymore, nor do you need to. For example:

  • Alcofall: What you do after imbibing enough of the alcohols.
  • Alcohaul: Scoring more alcohols after the stores are closed.
  • Alcocrawl: Making your way to the place where you deposit your used alcohols in the porcelain tank to make space for the fresh ones.
  • Alcostall: This is a twofer; means toilet and is also what you tell someone to delay a task you’re supposed to do so you can drink more alcohols.
  • Alcoball: Taking off your clothes with a partner but being unable to do anything.
  • Alcosmall: What happens to men after alcoholing.
  • Alcopall: Permanent face color. Most pronounced in the mornings. Also called “Camp Face.”
  • Alcothrall: Vacant gaze of bliss that goes over your face when you catch your first alcohols of the day, usually before 8:00 AM, always before 9.
  • Alcogall: Dual meanings. The taste in your mouth the next morning; also, outrage when realiholics criticize your drinking of the alcohols.
  • Alcotrawl: Looking for sex partners who are also sufficiently alcoholed to consider you as a potential hookup.
  • Alcodrawal: Physical reaction to being deprived of the alcohols more than 90 minutes.
  • Alcobrawl: Altercation that results when one person has drunk up all the alcohols while you were doing an alcocrawl to the alcostall.
  • Alcomaul: Vicious beating after saying something incoherent to another alcoholer.
  • Alcoscrawl: Signature at the admissions desk of the rehab center.
  • Alcodoll: Appearance of all women after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.
  • Alcodrawl: Incoherent muttering after sufficient drinking of the alcohols.

“There are a lot more,” I said. “But once you’re on the program none of them matter.”

My interlocutor walked off. Later that afternoon I saw him emptying his beer cans in the sink.

END


Fear of fridgelessness

July 2, 2020 § 13 Comments

I have a veritable Christmas tree of self-delusions, each one a sparkly ornament that I take down, gaze fondly at, stroke lovingly, and hang back up when I’m done with it.

Perhaps my biggest and most beloved delusion is that I’m a minimalist. Of course, that’s the last thing I am, more of a maximalist. Minimalism is less chic-ly known as poverty. The global standard for that? Living on $3.20 per day. Or less. Is your average living expense $5.50 per day? You’re no minimalist, and in many countries you no longer even qualify as especially poor. Kind of moving up, sorta.

Absolute minimalism, a/k/a extreme poverty, where you subsist on the narrow black line between life and death, begins at $1.90 a day. Are you rich enough to support yourself with expenditures between $10-$20 per day? Then you are squarely in the global middle class. More than $50/day? Globally you’re a high earner at $18k per year.

So anyway, I’m no minimalist. Yet.

However, I’m not exactly awash in things, which people sometimes confuse with minimalism. One of the things I’m not awash in is housing. Later this month I’ll be officially homeless. Now please don’t misunderstand. It’s temporary (maybe), it’s by choice, and I’m not sure if you’re really homeless as long as you have a trick bikepacking tent that cost nearly $500, a JetBoil stove, and, uh, a credit card that works. Also, once my bike trip ends, if my bike trip ends, I may decide to pay for a fixed abode again. Henry Thoreau could only hack the beauty of solitude for two years, two months, and two days before he abandoned Walden Pond, never to return.

Part of elected homelessness has meant gradually getting rid of various things, mostly by Craigslist. The last big thing with which I parted was my fridge. I don’t think Thoreau had one of those.

For the most part, the departure of each thing, be it a couch or a bed or a dresser, has been accompanied by the feeling of a giant thing being lifted off my nuts. And that feeling of relief, of being unencumbered by yet another thing, has been wonderful. Do I really need ten suits? That would be “nope.” Can all my clothes fit into a medium-sized cardboard box? That would be “yep.”

But when the guy lugged my fridge out of the apartment, well, things got real. What was I gonna do with all my fresh food? Of course “all my fresh food” meant a couple jars of starter, a tub of ice cream, some bacon, eggs, milk, salad dressing, a few vegetables, and some parsley.

Naturally, I ate it all. Which felt pretty good!

But after that the raw panic set in. The only things left to eat were things. Over the last year I’ve whittled my grocery shopping down (so I told myself) to only having a couple of days’ worth of food, but when Mr. Frigidaire left, I realized that “couple days’ worth of food” was indeed an ornament on the Christmas tree of delusions.

So now all the fresh food I eat isn’t refrigerated. No more chicken sitting around for four or five days. No more gallon-milk purchases. No more week’s-worth-of-carrots.

In synch with those living on $1.90 per day, I have to figure out what I’m going to eat tomorrow today, because if I don’t there isn’t going to be any eating tomorrow. Things get focused and the extraordinary wasteful lives we lead comes more into focus. For example, at the store yesterday I saw a guy loading his cart with a dozen frozen dinners while I eyed, with equally greedy eyes, an onion and a potato. And frankly, I think my dinner was better than his.

Are refrigerators a political issue? They kind of are. Setting aside the cost of the thing, you spend about $200/year to run it if it’s an older model. Newer ones cost as little as $40/year, but that’s offset by the high cost of the fridge itself. So in addition to the costs of ownership and operation, which are pretty tolerable when compared to, say, SRAM e-tap, you have to consider the real cost of the fridge, which is all the shit in it you never eat and ultimately throw away.

Every couple of years my mom used to clean out her freezer. It was always a game of “What is that?” as she’d haul out some freezer-burned hunk of nastiness and toss it in the trash. The back corners of her veggie bin were also ripe places for fermentation of all sorts. Nor was she an outlier. Americans waste a pound of food a day through spoilage. That turns out to a whopping 150,000 tons of food per year, almost as much as the average cyclist wastes in out-of-fashion kits that get tossed into the dumpster, or worse, pushed to the back of the kit drawer never to see light of day again.

Cost-wise, though, an Igloo cooler is even more costly. That’s because in SoCal a bag of ice runs about $4 and lasts for only two days, three at the most, totting up over $700/year if you’re going to refrigerate a few food items with ice.

Now that the fridge has gone, the panic has receded after less than a week. I’m shopping day-by-day. And I’m eating way less. And I’ve lost five pounds, which I’m not sure is the greatest prep for an extended bike ride up the coast. More than the five pounds, though, I’ve lost the weight of all those things I never liked, never really needed, and never really wanted anyway.

But still … not having a tub of ice cream to wash my hair with at 3:00 AM … that, I miss.

END


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