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

27 comments:

  1. Glad to know you're still grabbing, TJ. Always makes me happy to read another installment.

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    1. Thanks, Berry. The Solstice is behind us and soon will be summer. These short winter days make for much brooding on my part. Plus I'm not riding any long rides. But soon...

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  2. Lovely words Velo Brother ..lovely words.

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    1. Maybe, Ryan, Maybe. After an eight week hiatus I'm heading back out with the chain gang so posts will be scarce. I'll be spending most of my web time checking in on my friend's blogs and spreading my fertilizer there. Be warned.

      tj

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    2. Always good to see your words Velo Brother, good luck on the chain gang hope it helps you get closer to where you want to be. You post reminds me of the Peugeot UO-8 I rescued from life as a bastardized StingRay http://ryansrebuilds.blogspot.com/2013/03/oh-humanity-or-what-did-they-do-you.html . I went to Key West in the late 80s not long after Hurricane Hugo had blown through neighborhood and really enjoyed hanging out in the keys.

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  3. Stingray's, Schwinn's, fat seats, banana seats, a red English racer, a John Deere 5 speed, what a parade of bikes you sent on parade, for not just me alone I'm sure.

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  4. Island Woman MJ! Thanks for coming by. Are you still doing the hot sauce thing? I could squeeze a little link with picture up under Taliah's paintings link. I dabbled in the sauce business myself for a brief moment in time before it became to costly. Shipping costs shut me down. But whatever the case, thanks for your support.

    tj

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  5. Back when I had a short commute I built a succession of stingray-style "Dragsters" for the cruise to work. These things kept getting stolen cos I kept them locked with $3 cable locks... I hung onto the last one for way too long, eventually swapping it for a 6 pack of very good beer.

    Thanks for the words Tim Joe, always appreciated.

    Jonathan.

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  6. Thank you, Jonathan.The most-stolen bikes are the best ones. When one of my old-school readers shows up it is like seeing a favorite cousin at the family reunion. Thank you so much for staying with me.

    tj

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    1. Thanks for considering me old-school. :)
      I come back once a week or so to see what's happening with you, always nice to hear you're doing okay. You're a great writer too, hope you keep at it for a long time to come.

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  7. I love your rambling style of writing. It's very entertaining and just when I think you've lost your main point, you bring it around again. Sweet and sassy. Another devoted fan.

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    1. Miss Annie, I write like I think, and in a way, I write like I live. We all know that an important life decision is best made from the back of a bicycle. And how many times have you been out riding and had that sweet blast of clarity that solved a problem you didn't even know you were pondering on? I wonder how non-cyclists manage to get through life. If I were President (god forbid) there would have to be a velodrome in the basement.

      This Blog started out as transcripts from my personal journal and it has gradually grown to be my private thoughts made public. Well, after all , that is what writing is, wouldn't you agree? I once said that writing for public consumption is like jumping on a table in a crowded restaurant and pulling down your pants. I don't know where that image comes from, but it probably has something to do with Ernest or Scott. Or Hunter...

      Socrates, a non-cyclist, said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I agree. Life is layered and shifting and things happen and it is said that at night we dream and in our dreams we sort the chaos of life and the flashing imagery of the day is somehow distilled and sorted and laid to rest.

      What I do with my writing is very personal. I am dreaming when I write, I am sorting and gleaning and yes, separating the wheat from the chaff and also: all my writing, all of it, is me seeking peace, peace, that elusive peace with one's self; peace with self and God.

      If, along the way, it provides at the very least a bit of enjoyment for others that is enough for me.

      tj

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  8. Very entertaining and sassy writing. I'm your new fan.

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    1. I have crossed your trail many times, anniebikes, at most of my favorite Blogs and occasionally way out in the blogosphere where I least expect to see a familiar face. I am on my way over to your place to become a follower and leave a little fertilizer in your comment section. Would you consider helping me break my long stagnation at 42 followers by joining the Trailer Park Posse?

      tj

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    2. I see I have posted here twice. Lots of Internet hiccups on my end and often I wonder if a post goes through.

      At your request, I am now a follower. I wouldn't let that be a measure of your readership though, unless it's to tickle your fancy. Stats are a better way to track who's who.

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  9. It's always a good day when I open up and see a new missive from you, TJ! And your post immediately sent me back about 45 years or so. I had a 24 inch single speed that looked just too square for me so I did my first "bike work" and remade her into a much larger Stingray. She had a white, metallic flecked banana seat with a tall sissy bar up her back, and lovely tall handlebars. When I'd stand up and "paperboy" her up a hill I felt like prince.

    Then, one night, someone secreted her out of the shed where we stashed our bikes and lawnmower, and I never saw her again. It was not the last bike that's been stolen from me; her replacement was a Chiorda Gimondi 10 speed that I rode all over until he was stolen about 4 or 5 years later.

    I hadn't thought about either of those two until I opened up your blog. And that, my friend, is what you create for all of us; a smile or frown or grimace when you help us jump in the wayback machine for a few minutes travel.

    Best to you, TJ!

    Brian in VA

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    1. As always, Brian, thank you. I never know what people are going to like, so I write for myself. That usually seems to work out OK, what with the universality of human nature and so on. I hope the thaw comes soon for you, the snow, I mean; it was a damn rugged end to a winter we mostly could ignore. I am not riding long, these days; and that worries me. I know that one day we will meet and I want to be able to keep up.

      tj

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    2. TJ, alwas glad to see a great new post! You certainly brought me back to my childhood, and my beautiful Schwin 5-spd stick-shift stingray...red metallic paint, bannana seat, butterfly bars...ahhh...(weighed a ton tho). And that shifter was actually fairly dangerous to a 'boy', as it was top-tube mounted, and we rode 'off-road' quite a bit...this was back before BMX was invented. My steed had a road slick on the back (which sucked in the dirt but hey... it was wicked-cool on the street).

      And growing up in Helena MT we were only 60 miles from Butte (home of Evil Knievel). Every time he'd jump something and get back in the news, we'd go pull out our ramps and pile of lumber (for stacking up under the lip of the ramps providing the desired takeoff and landing angles) and push our jumping boundaries to new limits (on the street of course)...all this wearing tank-tops, shorts and tennis shoes (helmets hadn't yet been invented)...it's amazing we are all still alive and have only moderate brain damage (as far as I know).

      Hang in there on the chain gang...we're all slaves one-way or another to the mighty greenback...but it allows us the freedom to have bikes and THAT is the real freedom! Never grow up...bikes RULE!

      Hang in there!

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  10. I am going to quote Brian here, "what you create for all of us; a smile or frown or grimace when you help us jump in the wayback machine for a few minutes travel". This says a lot. For me, your writing makes me open up my brain and think. This is what attracts me to the few blogs I follow, that writing ability that provokes thought and a response. It might be my own lame attempt at being a writer but I like to think and respond.
    I have been kicking around the idea of a blog post about my history of bikes. After reading this, my bike history is pretty tame, not to mention lame-o.
    My childhood also had Stingrays involved except all my friends had them and I did not. I had a Schwinn Typhoon and I was always the kid clunking along behind those wonderous jumping beans of bicycle goodness. I have always had bikes myself. Never the cool kids bike...just a bike. It was kind of the same thing when I entered the driving world. I inherited a 66' VW bug and while functional and fun to drive and I would love to have it back right now....it was a bit lame in the high school world that Cameros, mustangs, hopped up monte carlos, etc ruled the world of coolness and pretty girls.
    I still don't have the cool kid stuff except I have four cool kids and I live in a pretty great place, so, I'm sure I'll get by.
    Whoa....off subject here...where was I??
    Give em hell on the chain gang there worker drone.
    Jim

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  11. Matt, Jim: thanks guys. Today was Day One back at work and it wasn't bad at all. After being self-employed most of my life I feel a bit guilty working for someone else but my heart is elsewhere these days and entrepreneurship requires all your heart.

    Now I just have to figure out where my heart is...I know I left it around here somewhere...

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  12. TJ,

    Good to see another post from you.

    I've always had a bike too, even when I didn't ride it. Heck, I hauled my Puch Cavette halfway across the country when I moved, rode it maybe once in two years, and then hauled it back when I returned to Ohio. These days it seems like 50% of the stuff I do outside work is involved with bicycling in some way.
    And if you think the Florida sunshine is cold I invite you to imagine how it feels up here right about now. If its so cold that it keeps me inside then you can be assured that it is pretty damn cold (still might go mtb'ing this weekend).

    Steve Z

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    1. Whining when the mercury drops below 50F is a requirement for citizenship in Florida, Swampboy. As far as bicycle ownership goes, I think that always having a bike is a kind of secret indicator of a cyclist, whether they are riding or not. Meanwhile, good lord, lad, this global warming is sure cold! I KNOW you guys are feeling the pain! Hang tough, brother, summer always comes. Mostly.

      tj

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  13. Apropos of robot chickens: -- It occurred to me that the llamas at Macchu Pichu were actually unemployed actors in llama suits.

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  14. That would explain a lot, anna. Not bad work, if you can get it. Were they dancing llamas?

    tj

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  15. Glad I discovered you blog! Love it!

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  16. In my opinion, the #1 Bitcoin exchange company is YoBit.

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