Friday, July 4, 2014

Owner of a Lonely Heart


From the Desk of the Trailer Park Cyclist
Hey, guys.  Are all of you reading Cycling In the South Bay?  Authored by Seth Davidson, Esq. it is almost the anti-Trailer Park Cyclist blog.  He's a decent human who pretends not to be, a successful attorney and a racing-type cyclist.  Like I said, kind of a Bizarro World TPC.  Plus he's skinny.

Whatever the case, I DO read it and last night, while in me cups, as they say, I read this comment by Erik and it threw me into a tailspin of sorts, which ain't hard to do.  Go read the original post.  But this comment by our brother Erik stands alone and says more about cycling than everything I have ever written.  

ERIK Comments at Cycling In the South Bay
I always enjoy your tales of childhood, because they remind me so much of my own. Though I’m about 10-15 years younger than you, so the wussification of Suburbia was well underway by the ’80′s. Either way, I spent my summer days in the woods. Learned to curse during the summer after first grade in a long string of nonsense profanity that involved tits and balls, but not cunts and cocks. We had a neighbor with a pump track in his yard that we’d poach (you never asked ANYONE if you were allowed to do something, you just did it), and my steel-frame Huffy with plastic mag wheels was my steed from about 3rd grade until well into high school before I got my first road bike, which was actually my mom’s. It was a white chromoly Puch, about 4 cm too small for me, with a squeaky rear brake – so I only ever used the front. One evening I was riding without a light, head down, when I looked up at the last second to see a parked car where there never was one. I grabbed the front brake in a death grip and went right over the handlebars with the bike still between my legs onto the trunk of the car. I rung the doorbell across the street and apologized for the few tiny dents and scratches to the trunk, and offered to pay for them. She never called me back. I rode all over town on that thing when i was 15-16, and the only reason I ever started learning to drive was because it got stolen when i dropped it in the grass behind the bank one evening while I ran int to get 10 bucks. I was in there 5 minutes and the bike was gone that fast. I’ll never forget the dread of my first stolen bike. It was like the first time you loose sight of your child in a big crowd, only you know it’s never coming back. That bike was my escape from a shitty new life in a new town with an alcoholic step-father and his sociopath sons, that began abruptly the day after my last day of 10th grade after 10 years of my father’s long and destructive descent into untreated schizophrenia. I miss that bike.

Friday, June 27, 2014

We Are the Gods

This is an old back-burner post that I just found while surfing the archives of the Trailer Park Cyclist Blog.  I really got a kick out of it and I have absolutely no memory of writing it.  Channeling my inner Thoreau, no doubt.

I hope you like it.

tj




Observe:  I have here in my left hand...
Throughout history scholars have despaired of our race, our species. As far back as Socrates, probably. Maybe even farther back, all the way to Thales, who if I remember correctly was Socrates' Grandpa. My Greek History ain't that strong. But also there is the Old Testament. Plenty of complaining about mankind in there! Mostly by God. He creates man and calls him Adam and Adam looks lonely and so God creates (stop me if you've heard this one) woman and calls her Eve...or Adam did I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up. If you want careful scholarship go to the library and check out a book, for chrissake's. This is the Trailer Park Cyclist and I'm typing in a trailer that actually resembles a beat up old railroad boxcar from the Depression. The Great Depression, not this pathetic little depression that everyone seems to think is over except for me, cause I'm still here in this...wait...


Sometimes I Get Sidetracked
So God created the first episode of I Love Lucy and then, of course, the trouble started. Lucy got pregnant and had little Ricky, except in the Bible version his name was Cain and he wandered the Old West playing a flute and kung-fu fighting and spouting wisdom in a way that makes him sound like maybe he got kicked by a mule...

Different Cain.

“What's that, Voice? I'm kinda busy here.”

I said that you are confusing Kane the fictional Shaolin monk with the first natural born human, Cain, who by the way, was also the world's first murderer.

“The Kung-fu guy?”

Of course not.

“I know, Voice, I was just messin' with ya.  Now let me get back to work, here."



Goldfish Bowl
So anyway, even back in the very beginning of time (as recorded by the religious right) God was usually pissed and I often wonder about that. My Grandpa was a kind of god to me, when I was little, and he was an avid keeper of tropical fish. It was a big deal.  One medium sized tank, carefully arranged and meticulously cared for and he loved those fish.  The tank in his den was holy and after supper we would sit and study on the fish and he would sometimes tell me stories. Not much though, he was half Cherokee and given to the taciturn nature of the Natives, but let us set that aside for now. The important part of the fish story I am sharing here is that my grandfather was never angry at his fish. He never complained about the fish or changed his mind and, uh, flooded the fish tank or blast out his wrath and holler at the fish like some kind of drunk on the roof or otherwise piss and moan and send other, bossier and holier-than-thou fish into the tank to tell the other fish how to live or how to pray and if Gramps ever sacrificed his favorite firstborn fish for the good of the other fish I never heard about it.

But I was little and maybe there were things I shouldn't know about.



I'm Glad That's Cleared Up
So: Good Morning, everybody! It's your old buddy Tim Joe and now that the right hand has got all of you looking at the left hand I'll say what's on my mind. It has not one damn thing to do with religion or politics; religion and politics are the crayons we use to color inside the lines that are being drawn somewhere by forces we don't know about and never will, completely. Even though I am a conspiracy nut, I try not to indulge in conspiracy theory. “Geronimo!” Hah! , remember that? Back when we all still loved poor Mel Gibson, the Lance Armstrong of Hollywood. No, what I'm up to right now is trying to get a handle on the news. The other morning I was bored and since the recent storms provided me with a rich windfall of firewood I foolishly decided to fire up the Ol' Quasitron 6000 Steam Powered Search Engine and see what has been happening lately in the world outside the Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Fish Camp.

Ladies and Gentlemen!  The Quaz!
I carefully arranged the abacus-style keyboard to form the word “Wassup?!” and tapped the glass on the dials to make sure nothing was stuck. I made a quick note that I was going to need another five gallons of Brasso, various parts were turning green. Then, leaping up, I grabbed the big Go! chain and let my weight (plentiful as it is) pull the giant flywheel into action and set things to spinning...

TPC Editoral Office

Recession Over, Everyone is Rich Again... well, that's certainly good news. I guess my check is in the mail. I give the brass wheel another spin.

Economic Improvement Results In Uptick of Housing Market, People Buying Larger Homes...
“The Wall Street Journal reports today that the upturn in the marketplace and an increase in new home construction is revealing that first-time homeowners are once again buying larger homes, in record amounts. These indicators of a reviving economy were good news to Wall Street and hint at a light at the end of...

“STOP RIGHT THERE!” I screamed, almost blinded by the tears of rage and the overwhelming sense of absolute incredulity I was suffering as I read these words. I grabbed the slowly spinning Search wheel and gave it another spin. Dashing up the steel stairs to the keyboard, I quickly, sheer dread numbing my fingers, rearranged the beads to say “What About the Cars...” Then stumbling back down the stairs to the big six by ten foot cathode ray black and white screen, I saw only static and a rolling horizontal bar. Kicking the Quazitron injudiciously, I watched in dread as the screen cleared and I saw what I knew would be there:

Automobile Manufactures Report Record Sales...
“Major automotive retailers reported today that sales have reached a five year high. Leading the market were the new “crossover” cars with improved fuel economy, many getting over twenty miles mpg...

I hopped over and collapsed into my chair. I propped my throbbing foot up on an old discarded wire spool I had found somewhere in the Park.

If I were God, or even just a drunk on the roof, I would right now be screaming at the fish.

Cue Sam Kennison
“BIG HOUSES NEED MORE RESOURCES TO OPERATE! BIG CARS NEED MORE OIL! AREN'T YOU FUCKERS PAYING ATTENTION? AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

Here We Go Again
Obviously not. We are obviously not paying attention. Like precious tropical fish in an aquarium we foul our tank with our waste. But there is no kindly halfbreed god to change the water and check our pH. It is up to us. No matter how wealthy we become, we will continue to be slaves until foreign oil is no longer of even the least interest to us or to the benefit of our national economy. “They” know this. “They” don't care. They know we are stupid and oblivious and distracted by bright flashing images and shiny new things.


Forced To Get It Right
I discovered this “base-life” that I am living by accident. One major mishap in my business, a contract that I didn't get, put me on hold. It kept going. New work came in, but it was not enough to support our lifestyle. We moved to the Pines, temporarily, three years ago. The Blonde, despairing of me ever again rising to my former glory, was forced to get her now teenage twins out of the trailer park. This place is one foul fish tank indeed. She moved into a condo in town and I moved into this boxcar, because it was free. Then the microwave blew up, a victim of way too many chinese noodle suppers. Later, the refrigerator died. There was no money to replace these things. I put them into the trailer park recycle pile and swept the floor where they had been. I shook off the dust. I have been living without these necessities for awhile now. I barely miss them. I started counting how much electricity such a life needed. Not much.


Sure, It Works For You, But You're Weird
I realize that most people could not live this way. Not American People, I mean. Otherwise, there are people living this way all over the planet. Up until about a hundred years ago, everyone lived this way. We were just not doing it right. Coal smoke blackened the sky and disease spread rapidly, as it is wont to do in a fish tank. But we could do it better, and we did. But...

Everytime necessity forces us to get it right, we rally our resources and do so.  Things then get better, of course, and then...we go right back to doing the things that started the problem in the first place.

Lifestyles of the Down and Out
I'm living without an air conditioner. In Florida. In the summer. It's no big deal. I have screened all my windows and moved some walls around and set things up so I can catch the breeze no matter from what direction it comes. I have strategically-placed fans. Life without refrigeration is a little tougher. I miss drinking cold-as-hell beer. I don't drink ice tea, or milk or chilled lemonade. I drink room temp water from the tap. I'm still alive. But yeah, a refrigerator would be nice. Before it died, I was using one of those little dormitory units. It was plenty. The microwave? I never did trust those things anyway.


I'm not holier-than-thou, I hope. Just poor as hell. But I am, on purpose or not, a kind of warrior. I am a soldier in the Fuck You Army. Fuck you and your oil! I'll walk, pedal my bicycle or take public transportation. If I need to get my tools to a job site, I'll hire a Cab Truck in the appropriate size to haul my gear to the job, where I will store it with my fellow tradesmen in our surplus-purchased shipping containers.

When off work, I can get anywhere I want to go on the buses and trains that run every fifteen minutes. There are bicycle cars that are a blast to ride in, a chance to hang out with my fellow cyclists. There are public bike stands at every stop.

Since we overcame 'Them” and initiated a national movement to outlaw private ownership of automobiles, oil is cheap, and local governments have been able to rebuild failing infrastructure to support sustainable transportation. Our downtowns are alive and hoppin', with food stands and cool saloons with bicycles tied up out front instead of horses, even though horses are also making a comeback. Horse crap ain't a problem; urban gardeners fight over the stuff.

Now that we have all caught our collective breath and returned to sanity, the immigration problem has gone away. We're doing our own dirty work now, since it doesn't take a small fortune to support a family of four anymore. The poor immigrants all left, headed for China.

Every Movement Needs Someone To Blame
The strangest twist of all was how, based on the writings of a simple little man living in a trailer park in Florida, we changed our way of looking at life. It became ridiculous to want More. We learned to laugh at greed. Our national and tribal incentives were toward Less. Popular culture faded away, pretty much. The silly and pompous became more than just foolish; excess wealth and power struggle and avaricious intent came to be considered a sin punishable by death. (Yeah, we killed them. Brittany was the first to go) After Simple and Poor became the New Rich, professional athletes and big name actors (like Mel) were endangered species that we didn't try to protect. Heroes to us these days are the people who are living the simplest, doing the most with the least. There are local competitions for the Least Awards.

The Malls are all livestock barns now. There are waiting lists for trailers in small mobile home communities. Local craftsmen build our furniture, we eat locally grown crops. There is plenty of everything. Even for the bums. In fact, like ancient Greece we have bums who we indulge. They think they are philosophers, but really we just get a kick out of their bullshit.

We owe all this to the Cyclist who showed us that to have too much was a true crime, against man and nature. There is no benevolent keeper-of the-tank to take care of us. If we don't learn to live simply by choice, our descendants will learn to live simply by necessity. We are the Gods. It is Us.

All Hail The Trailer Park Cyclist!
Glory Be To The Trailer Park Cyclist!

Hey, wake up!

“Wha...where, uh..I guess I nodded off.”

You were laying there on the floor snoring like an old hog. It was positively indecent. 

“Uh, sorry, Voice, I got a little worked up over the news...”

I don't know why you even bother. Anyway, get up, I want you to meet my cousin Earl.



Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Dream Machine
Written Sometime in 2012-13, posted June 27,2014 (the future)



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cromwell Gets A Bicycle

The Doldrums
Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog and Toby the Love Puppy are trying to get a grip on this their new reality: they have their own fan. They have their own dog fan, a sweet little unit I picked up for a measly twelve dollars. It is one of those cheap square box fans but it is set on High here in our sultry Old Hawks Park in my not-air-conditioned mobile home/barn; they just cannot believe their luck and Toby, an amateur yodeler, has already learned that howling weird noises into the blades of the fan results in all manner of fun sounds that cause Miss Daisy to run outside and hide under the trailer.

For What It's Worth
Such is the life of the Trailer Park Cyclist. Simple pleasures and dog tricks; carpentry and drinking and just getting by in these doldrums of the sorta-post recession and a recent Presidency that will leave all of us, I think, saying “What was that? What just happened?” It may have been an example of don't let the Right Hand know what the Left Hand is doing but I will take it, these doldrums. The absolutely unbelievable stupidity and ruthless cruelty of the crew before this one leaves me weary and old and fearing for my future, sometimes...I'll take a boring administration anytime over a war mongering idiot and a supporting cast of Cold War leftovers.

And yet: guess who's coming to dinner. No, he ain't black, we already did that: he is uber-white and the true scion of this weird Skull and Bones dynasty that didn't exactly ruin everything, but not for want of trying. And yet, having lived under his governorship with no complaints and faced with the other dynasty out of Arkansas I will, pending the debates, make mine Jeb.

This page is not, usually, political (that's a bald-faced lie) but I have a lot on my mind right now. For one thing, I am old and feeble and I am supposed to be doing my Captain Ron routine somewhere South of here and on my way to work each day I pass the anchorage and there they are; the sailboats. But I know the truth about sailboats and I also know I am too lazy to bother with getting in a boat and risking my life just to get to a new saloon. I live in a tourist town and there are plenty of watering holes around here that real sailors can't wait to get back to from some crappy Carribean Island where beers cost twice as much as usual and if you can afford to buy enough beer to get arrested you will find out that there are no bail bondsmen and the Embassy has an unlisted number.

As Always...
But what about bicycles, you ask? Even if you didn't, I'll tell you: this afternoon I assembled a Bicycle Shop Warehouse bicycle for my old friend Cromwell. The first thing I did was motor up to his pottery shop in my antique Ford pickup truck. I drive nowhere except for work, but I had my Park bicycle work stand in the back and Cromwell, ever a sucker for flash, was impressed that such a device even existed, needless to say that such a one as me might actually own one. But that is the nature of me and Crom's relationship, however tenuous it may be; for example he has never visited these pages, even though he knows all about them...maybe. But enough of that. Instead, let me tell you about the Motobecane hybrid he bought and I put together.

It was sweet. The welds were the same, if not neater, than my '91 aluminum frame Mongoose Alta. Even with a cheap Suntour suspension fork, the overall bicycle was light. Plenty light. The chain was lightly lubed with clear oil and all the gears shifted just fine, straight out of the box.



Motobecane Elite Sport

Always There Are Caveats
There is this to know: The seat post was crap. Total crap. The Tecktro Brakes were marginal, at best. The suspension fork I cannot comment on, because suspension forks are totally alien to me. But when I took the test ride, thirty minutes after opening the box, I was flying in slow traffic like a Quicksilver remake was in the offing and it was really cool how the nose dived when you put on the front brake. I shifted through all the front derailleur gears and all the rear ones too. I didn't cross-chain anything because that ain't my way and everything worked just fine. I would buy one of these bicycles, I think, except that this was the lowest-end offering in the Motobecane Elite series...and I don't ride hybrids.

At least, not yet. This bicycle was plenty quick and the Altus rear unit and the Tourney front was a bit rough, but still serviceable. With the little riding that Cromwell does, it may be years before this new drive train breaks in and smooths out. With me, not so long. If that bicycle I assembled this afternoon were mine, she would be seeing thirty miles by sundown and probably a bicycle sick-day tomorrow. I haven't ridden to Daytona for a long time now.

Some Days Are Better Than Others
The sun is setting over the yardarm, maybe; at least it would be if I were on my boat and knew what a yardarm was. Since I ain't and I don't, what I will do instead is pedal down to the closest House of Spirits and grab some grog. Cheap beer too and here we are, all of us; and here is Miss Daisy and the Love Puppy and here comes sundown and the dogs have a cooling fan to lie in front of; it is a better day, now, for the dogs and not such a bad day for the Trailer Park Cyclist. I got to play the part of the wise old bike guru and the Park work stand got a supporting role; I did something worth doing today and I also was the first person to ride a brand-new bicycle that did its job just fine.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bike Shop

May 28, 2014

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 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