Saturday, January 5, 2013

Return of the High Country Stranger

Yesterday my friend and brother KAZ from the far country of The Carolinas paid me a visit.  As always, he came bearing gifts of Pirate Juice and goodwill.  We spoke of many things, as we always do, but two points in particular I remember.  I don’t remember much else, due to the Pirate Juice, but at the risk of breaking my two self-imposed guidelines of avoiding politics and religion and Walmart, I will relay to what is left of my readership the gist of the sit-down, as it were. 

“This isn’t an interview,”  I say.

“Were you peeing when you went outside just now?”

“Yeah.  Go ahead, man, it’s one of the last freedoms we have as dudes.”  As junior agent KAZ(he is only fifty), goes out to the giant palm tree the phone rings.  Due to my vast wealth as a boogermeister and literary provocateur, I have one of the last remaining wall-mounted telephones that are hooked to wires that go out of the trailer to…uh...telephone-land.


“Hey!  There’s a pit bull out here!”


“Nothing, honey.  I forgot that Rocky was visiting.”

“I thought that bicycle guy was there.”

"Don’t pee on him, KAZ.  It makes him mad.”


“Yeah.  What’s up, Blondie?  I’m busy.”

“Sounds like it.  Now I forget why I called.”

“Me too.  Call back when we remember.”  I hang the phone back on the wall.

“I don’t remember that dog from last time.”

“He wasn’t here that time.  I’m dog-sitting. In fact, there’s a good possibility none of this is even happening.”

“You’re right.  So anyway, you asked about our community churches.”

“What do you mean by community churches, specifically?”

“My wife and I were involved in the development and growth of several churches in the past, but it just wasn’t getting the job done.  Every time, it developed into something…big.  It got too big and it changed and …”

“Turned into a car show in the parking lot and a wardrobe display inside?”

“Yeah!  Not exactly, but… yeah.  So we started having these small gatherings.  Six or eight people.  We did communion and a little music, a couple of us had guitars, and together we were somehow getting closer to, uh, finding…the Spirit, the comfort of Grace.”

“Whenever two or more of you…”


“I can see how that would get out of hand pretty quick.  So, those six or eight people have six or eight friends and there ya go again…”

“Right.  Exactly.”


“Of course, we couldn’t turn anyone away, so what we did was encourage the new guys to start their own groups.  It grew from there.”

“What you are describing is the exact model of a revolution, the cell system of organizing a large group of people who are not connected except by a precept, a single motive of change…typically, one member from each cell would go to help start the next group, establish some guidelines and patterns…”

“Yeah!  That’s what we are doing, yeah…”

“He was the original revolutionary, after all, I suppose.”

Here we pause for more palm tree watering and a little rustling through the ice chest.  A couple dashes of Pirate Juice get tossed into my best (only) glasses.  I really like this guy, this Agent KAZ.  He is a good operative.  He leaves a trail of good.

“Did you ever give a rider a push, or get a push?”


“This isn’t an interview.”

“You mean in a group, someone is tired, or dropped?”

“Well, KAZ, you don’t push the leaders.”


“The fast guys aren’t in it.  One time I caught up with a crew and in the back was this girl.  She was crying.  I wanted to be a superman, the Noble Trailer Park Cyclist and give her a push.  Or at least get in front and let her get on my wheel so I could pull her up to the group.  They weren’t that fast.  I could have done it.  But I was too shy, I was a real trailer park guy, goodwill clothes and so on and I just didn’t do it.  I just turned off and came home and drank a dozen beers and thought about how I could have been a hero.”

“You are a hero, Tim Joe.” 

"Aww, KAZ, you didn’t say that.”

“Well, I should have said it, if I didn’t.  But yeah, there’s this guy in town who wants to join our group.”  This makes me laugh.  I see, in my feeble mind’s eye, a straggler, a lonely orphan like myself, yearning to be a member, a participant in this crew of brightly clad fast-riding men- of-war, this crew of the shining, the privileged, the few…

“We call him Grey Shirt.  He always has on this grey t-shirt and some baggy gym shorts and old tennis shoes.”  I laugh again.  The Pirate Juice is doing its job.  Manic and attuned to the ludicrous, I am Grey Shirt.  I am that outsider, that lone straggler.  I am Grey Shirt.

“His name is Ben Donaldson.” 


“Grey Shirt.  His name is Ben Donaldson.”  This messes up my self-absorbed fantasy of Lone Ranger-ness.

“One time on a long flat outside Charleston, I forget the ride, I was done.  There were still a lot of miles to go, you know?  You’ve been there.  There were still a lot of miles to go and I was done.  I was way off the back of the pack and all of a sudden there was a hand on my back and I was getting a push.  It was Grey Shirt.”

“Riding steel, right?”

“Riding steel, old steel like yours and later, we were sitting side by side on the curb outside a market, drinking beer.  He told me his name was Ben.  Ben Donaldson.”

“I love you, man.”

“I love you, too, Tim Joe.”

All of this counts, folks.  It all counts and I want you to know it.  I want you to know that to me, you count.  Every single one of you.  Remember yourselves, stand tall and strong, remember that you are here to form a cell, to give and get a push.  We are here to fix it, you guys.  Agent KAZ and I are here. We are here to help.  But we cannot do it alone; nor can you do it alone.

Together we can.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Hope


  1. Small is beautiful brother. Back in my group ride/pace-line days I was sometimes (rarely) the hammer, sometimes (many) off the back in no mans land but the most fun I had was being the tow truck, especially if one of the ladies got dropped it was fun to tow them back on and I guess it appealed to my inner gentleman.

    1. Dawg, yer inner gentleman has always been right here, close to the top. I was going to introduce your new booger, but forgot. Tomprrow. All my heart, Roadie, yer pal,


    2. No worries on the booger bro and thanks for the compliment man.

  2. Nice post TJ...I LOVE your conversations...ur' definitely a one of a kind writer!

    And right on Roadie...small is indeed the ticket...sometimes (usually) I ride with a group of one (counting me). I'd love to do the group rides, but they leave so gosh darn early around here...I'm still swilling coffee and pondering the glorious possibilities of the day when they have departed.

    And then there's that thing about riding everybody else's pace. Besides...the group of 1 gives me lots of alone-time to solve the worlds problems (which I typically do, but sadly by the time I get home I forgot the solutions).

    But when I DO get into a group it's fun of a different sort. It's a grand feeling to be strong enough to be the one shepherding people back to the group! I'm always amazed how the hammerheads can drop people completely oblivious to the damage they are causing to the klingons.

    A while back on a Saturday ride I saw a bike-girl standing on a corner in no-mans land, looking both possible directions anxiously. I stopped and made sure she was ok...which she was, tho she was kinda ticked...she had been dropped from the group and didn't know how to get back to where they were parked. And the kicker: it was her husband who led the charge of fast movers. I was feeling spunky and chivalrous...and as I had seen her group (I think) a few miles back on the side of the road I offered to ride with her back to the group (in case that wasn't her group, then she would truly be lost because that might not be the right direction)...but she said no thanks and went about her way in the direction I pointed. Sure hope that was them...I look back and think I should have gone back w/ her anyway...but I didn't and I still regret it.

    I guess I'm saying there's LOTS of things that need fixin'...and I think maybe "it takes a village"...or is that "just say no"...or "an Army of one"...or maybe it's just that anybody can be a hero in so many ways. We see hero's every day and sometimes don't even notice them. And sometimes they are us. I figure it's a big crazy world out there, and we need to take care of each other. THAT is heroic.

    I guess if I had a NY's resolution, it would be to NOT pass up a chance to be a hero.

    1. Thanks, Matt, for the thoughtful comment. I always wanted this Booger to be a place for dialogue. We may not get much fixin' done around here, but at least we're talking about it, which a start.


  3. Hey TJ

    The great bluesman and accidental poet R.L. Burnside liked do say "I do what I can". I'd say that can be a good job. It seems some days that doing is helping others along and other days it is being OK with receiving a bit from another.

    I sure hope that palm tree is going to be OK. I thought I understood you believed it needed some salt. I worked a job right after high school as a maintenance man. The other guys I worked with most days had a dad who quoted to me that a man has no right every living in a place where he can not take a pee in his own back yard. I'm not sure why, but this has always seemed wise to me.

    Anyway, you know I appreciate you as much as anything in this mess called life. Already lookin' forward to another visit...

    Yer pal
    Zig (KAZ)

    1. PS: Next time I will do a spelling and grammar check. much for road travel. Bad Spellers of The World Untie!

    2. The palm tree is in a lot better shape than me, I can tell ya that much for sure. I couldn't remember much from our talk, and my notes were written in some form of Pirate script that is unreadable when sober, which I may never be again. But I think I got the general tone in there.

      Stay salty, brother! Until we meet again!

      yer pal,

      Grey Shirt

  4. I remember having a hand up a big climb, and how much it meant to me that someone cared to not drop me. I remember leading out so the pace would be fast but steady, only to have the boys grow impatient and swarm past me in a surge of testosterone. I remember being forced to a stop when a bunch passed me but didn't leave room for me to get round a parked car. I remember being pulled back to the bunch on a windy day when I fell off the back. Cycling is such a complex society, but I like it best when it is civilized.

    ps, plant a lemon tree in the park. Lemons love pee and you can just say you are into permaculture...

    1. Hey Dee! Pee-grown lemons and reconstituted tomatoes! Organic as heck!

      I don't know why we take something as sweet and simple as riding a bicycle and make it into an ordeal. Human nature, I suppose. But that deal with the car is just wrong.

      Thanks for coming by the Park.


  5. TJ,

    I joined the local bike group almost a year ago and as of this past Saturday, I've been on 3 rides. I'm struggling to find my groove with these folks. All 3 I've ended up on were leisurely spins, mostly social excursions, with some cycling thrown in for good measure. They weren't advertised as such. Just the same, I met some good people who really enjoyed that leisurely pace.

    Don't get me wrong, I like a leisurely pace sometimes. But I joined the group 'cause I heard I could get some workouts in. Now, I've seen those guys and the look scary to me. Mostly younger bucks but the guys my age all look fit and snarly, too. My snarl's been gone for decades.

    I may have to just try one of them, just to see if I can hang or maybe let one of them be a hero and drag me back when they drop me.

    I was never more thrilled than when I bought my current house which has more than enough yard to pee in. I try to spread it around to keep the deer off our shrubs.

    Yer pal,
    B in VA

  6. Around here they seem to have two groups for every ride. One goes fast and the other not-so-fast. To me it all seems a little structured, but like you said, these guys are getting a workout. My rides are more of a time-out and I am happy to leave it that way.

    I remember the Virginia deer. Way bigger than ours in Florida. But if your urine attracts deer perhaps you should be bottling it and marketing it at the local hunting supply.


  7. Tim Joe if you live in a place where you can't pee outside then it's time to move. Of cousre my grandson has taken it to a whole new level but thats anouther story.
    When I first started riding again I thought joining a group might teach me things about riding, it did, I prefer to ride alone and I just can't get into the mine is bigger than yours mindset of the group. I do enjoy riding with Wayward or his friend Chuckie but solo frees my mind, no mindless chatter, no testosterone driven exibits, just me the road and the wind.

    1. I hope someday to ride with you and Wayward, Doug. Until then, we think the same: the road and the wind are welcome enough companions. Well, sometimes the wind could just as well stayed home...


  8. TJ, Thanks for keeping a light on for me. Much needed!

    Even though I would be one of the first ones dropped out of the parking lot on one of the Wankmeister's group rides due to my abilities, I still enjoy it while it lasts. I know because I can't stay at the front or make things happen my place is to ride with the ones who got dropped before me and help them. I learned this from riding as an intermediate and jr, in Florida with a racing club. Lots and lots of time by myself. I most appreciate being able to be the wheel that can pull some bombed riders home or across a windy gap.

    Thats the reason I have found a group with a "no drop" policy. Regroup at the tops of the hills, everybody comes home together. As a really smart guy said "this is suppose to be a group ride, isn't it?"

    By the way, thanks for turning me on to the Wankmeister. Sage advice and good for vocabulary improvement.

    Greg D

    1. Seth is a remarkable writer and his Booger does a lot for the sport. When I read of his rides and the friendship he shares with his comrades I am a little envious. I'm glad you like his page, Greg; I do too and that is why I shared it with my friends here at the TPC.


  9. TJ,

    The volunteer spirit, as well as the concept of the Good Samaritan, sometimes seem to be leaving this world. There are still some people who automatically think about lending a hand when they see a fellow primate in need - but it's so rare that its often considered newsworthy. That is sad.

    I could tell of examples of trying to be the do-gooder, and helping strangers along the way, but that would just be self-serving. It's enough to say that my wife and I are trying to raise our son so that when he sees someone struggling to get a door open he'll take a moment to help. Aren't we supposed to help each other out?

    Organized religion - nuh uh. Each man's church should be in his mind's eye in my opinion. That quote should be "wherever two or three of you congregate in my name, you'll find a reason to beat the shit out of someone who's not like you".

    As for the road riding thing... I know I'm odd man out here, being a mtbr and not a roadie. But the whole thing where the object of the exercise is to leave people behind just baffles me. Yeah, I'm about as anti-social as they come, and yeah, I'm about as competitive as a rock (I am both a bad loser and a poor winner). But give me a nice ride through the woods with one or two friends, with conversation breaks at the tops of the big hills and I'm a happy boy. And that husband that dropped his wife on their group ride - hope he don't get no lovin' for a year.

    Peace and pedal strokes.

    Steve Z

    1. It never really occurred to me that you might be the only mountain man here, Swampboy. I know Angie the Bikenator is a mountain rider...I am sure that there are more. Maybe they just aren't commenting.


  10. Count me one of the solo riders, I am a touring cyclist at heart and nobody seems to want to go where I am going at the pace I am getting there.
    I have tried a couple of group rides here in our town and the guys on their super fast carbons race away and then I ride alone as usual. There are always pancakes left at the charity breakfast that these rides involve and they always seem to accept my slow money just as well as the fast money!
    So much of life involves the spirit of give when you can, accept when you have to. That spirit lives in my children and I try and pass it on to my guys on my basketball team. The idea that High School basketball is a brief time in life but the true lesson learned can last a lifetime.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Those "brief time(s) in life" that are High School sports stay with us forever, Jim. Are you a Coach? Man, there is a subject worthy of Blogging about.

    I wonder if this solo/group thing is a common subject? Me, I am by nature a loner and my rides are really times for composing the next post, or carrying on heated conversations with myself, the wind, or whatever is currently needing resolution in my life.

    But on the subject of High School Sports, I have in the past wondered about bicycles. I know there are a handful of colleges out there with a cycling program. But is there even ONE high school cycling program?


    1. Funny you should ask! This past Fall our High School got involved in a league. I am not sure of the format of competition. It is on mountain bikes and they compete on single track courses. Not sure if it is a timed event or a balls out race. I'll find out.

      Yeah, I am a High School boys basketball coach. I had the chance about ten years ago to get involved. I was officiating High school basketball and could begin to see the end of that. Men in their late 40's cannot sprint up and down the court like 16 to 18 year olds can. You can fool yourself and their are tricks for old guys to cheat steps but I had a good run and I did not want to be one of "those" guys. So, when I was invited by our school to step in, I jumped. I liked officiating but I really love coaching. Yeah, you are right...there might be a blog in all this!!