Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Friendly Ghost

 Ya Can't Get There From Here
 Blasting through Daytona in a light summer shower, the Trailer Park Cyclist is a friendly ghost, swooping through low-rent neighborhoods where he fits right in; bedraggled and scraggly and no stranger to the demimonde. He is a soaring spirit, his soul cleansed and cooled by this gentle sweet rain. With a head full of future dreams and a heart heavy with past failings and haunted by late night visitations from fallen family and soldiers of his command, he knows that it isn't all his fault; and yet some of it is his fault and he knows it and as the morning rain soaks into his superheated skin and cools his superheated soul he is lost on a deep ocean of powerful memories; but he is not yet lost; not yet, for the Trailer Park Cyclist is a Master Brinksman. He is old and crafty and he knows where the line is...he has pushed hard and with bad intent in the past and yes, he knows where the line is and where lies the Edge and when to forge ahead and when to grab at the last moment for the salvation of the lifeline.

Besides all that, I have a 7:30 AM appointment next Monday at the VA Clinic (22.2 miles from my trailer) and I am currently painfully and pridefully without an automobile.

“Who cares?” I say, smirking like a maniac and gazing fondly at my 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour.

Night Rider
That's Super with a capitol S and 55 miles and 3.5 hours later here sits I, strong, bold, not haunted nor daunted. I did a practice run this morning, testing two routes to the Clinic. Both are fraught with peril. It can be murky and weird around here just before Sunrise. The local drivers are World Renowned for their faulty driving practices and on Monday mornings they ain't always at peak performance. So I will be wearing reflective clothing and have a rigged up head light and some kind of taillight and if even ONE hungover driver fails to see me I will douse my hair with Trailer Park Special Chain Lube and set my head on fire. That always works and like Richard Pryor once said, “When people see a black man in his underwear running down the street with his head on fire, they get out of the way!”

Uh Oh Toto
But this morning on my dry run I got lost and inexplicably ended up in crack town. Trust me, that is a 24 hour a day enterprise and any scraggly old white bastard pedaling an old ten speed through there is either undercover or shopping. I was neither, (for the record) but there I was anyway, only slightly lost but with strong legs and actually enjoying the experience. Crack dealers are apparently as guilty of profiling as the police are and I was variously whistled at and waved at and knowingly nodded at in a 'come hither' fashion and while I enjoyed my new-found popularity, it was way too early for drug abuse and I had to find that Clinic in a timely fashion in order to properly map my plans for next Monday's predawn excursion.

Then just like that, there it was: the Glorious Governmental Refuge for the Weary of Body and Soul, there it was and I checked my time and miles, marked them down on my two year old piece of scrap paper that somehow magically continues to serve as a place for deep thoughts encountered on my rides; it has my mileage and ride report notes for near on 4000 miles now and has been soaked by rain and once nearly perished when threatened with emergency use in the roadside bushes during an especially overwhelming gastrointestinal emergency. But that scrap of paper is still with me and I made my pertinent notes, glanced scornfully at the gathering morning clouds and started thinking about beer.

No worries there, mates, I know where they keep it throughout my vast rambling realm and it wasn't long before I was guzzling a 24 0z Budweiser at creek side and mashing up some honey-roasted peanuts, staring-down some little bait fish and pondering all manner of things.

Beechwood Aging
By some inadvertent punching of the keyboard one night while in me cups, as they say, I ran across an old girlfriend from those promising post-high school years when I still had hope of the Presidency and if not that, at least the Nobel, the Oscar, or the Pulitzer. Anything but the Trailer Park. But I stumbled across this past love and she has gone on to become a middle level executive at a mid-level organization that does things I can't remember. In high school she was by far the most exotic beauty and clearly the most likely to one day be a femme fatale and she was always just outside my reach.  But I hit a stronger stride in my young manhood and while high school was not without its successes, some late-onset physical maturity and a pretty good job and a pocketful of cash brought me some small reward later on. She and I were that sparkling nascent promising couple and it was a rewarding and intense six months, I'll tell ya. But I was only joking about a steady job, my heart was in the Cosmos and I had no intention of succeeding, not in the way she saw it and I was headed elsewhere (which turned out to be Los Angeles) and she had plans that involved cars, clothes, suburban splendor and so on...

But I ran across her trail late one night and she asked me: “Have you aged well?”

That was over three years ago and that not-so-innocent little question started a train of thought that has plagued me continuously ever since. It has caused no end of unsettled rumination on my part and I find it to be a kind of a trick question. Nor have I found the answer. It is a thing that is hard to know and one would have to perhaps seek judgment from a source outside of oneself to get a glimmer of clarity.

In the case of the old girlfriend, I suspect that what she really wanted to know was how my late-onset physical maturity was holding up and I also suspect she would be mildly horrified to see this quasi-fit fifty-six year-old man with too-long hair and a Goodwill personal style blasting around on the wrong side of the tracks in the rain on a Saturday morning, just a little lost, grinning foolishly and waving and nodding at the neighborhood crack dealers and pedaling rapidly and with strong legs, a friendly ghost from her deep past, a haunting memory of how it was before she achieved Cougar Status and how he somehow transcended his fate and magically held the line.

Fish, Beer, Peanuts  and Peacocks
I know this: on the way home I stopped to look at fish, eat peanuts and drink beer. I finished that joyful chore and meandered back to the highway, only a handful of miles from my home. As I exited the woods, there they were: the Peacock Peleton zapping by as though shot from a confetti cannon. A 24 oz Budweiser takes up a little gastro space and I was just a little stunned but what the hell? I gave it a push and fell in on the wheel of the last rider, hoping my heavy breathing and burping wouldn't alert him to my presence before my legs loosened up and I hit a stride. It is fun as hell for a constant solo rider like myself to feel the pull of fifteen guys doing 22mph. It is easy and like cheating to keep up and one of these days...

All's Well That Zens Well
The Trailer Park Cyclist is home now, showered and drinking beer and typing. His Little Darlin' is hosed off and wiped down and shiny and that bicycle, at least,  has certainly aged well. Those rascally riders pulled in for a break and I wanted to stop and hang out but I am only a friendly ghost, I don't think they would understand and I went on my way, pedaling strong into a very mild headwind. A milder headwind than usual, I think. A trusty bicycle and a light heart are probably hopeful signs of aging well.

The Cosmos is still here and so am I and I don't think this story has an end. There is no end and living in the Now is what they tell us to do but if I don't make plans and take trial runs I might end up in the wrong neighborhood.  That's why I do it.  That and the fish, beer, peanuts and peacocks.

Ya know?

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Ruminatory

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shakespeare Was A Monkey's Uncle

It has been said that given enough time, a gang of monkeys could type out the works of Shakespeare. How long that would take is hard to say, but I am troubled by wondering if that very experiment is not taking place in a secure laboratory somewhere, probably in Nevada. Chimpanzees in Nevada is a disturbing enough thought, but what I am wondering is if this experiment (started in the fifties) when typewriters were the only writing machines available, what happened when they switched over to word processors? And now, since this is an exceedingly long-running experiment, what are those monkeys typing on? Do they have internet access?

To Steam Or Not To Steam
Let's fire up the Quasitron 6000 Steam Powered Search Engine and find out.

There isn't any coal or firewood. Uncle Bill took it.

“Voice! Where ya been, buddy?! It's been quiet around here. I missed you!”

France. And the news is that it has been anything BUT quiet around here.

“Aw, Voice, I meant quiet by my standards. Anyway, I need to fire up the ol' Quaz and get to the bottom of this typing monkey question. My readers are thirsty for knowledge and it's up to me to give it to them.”

Oh, you give it to them, alright.

“Har Har, you funny. Bust up that last chair and get it in the firebox and let's do us a Wisdom Search!”

Voices don't bust up chairs.

“Then what are they good for? Alright, I'll do it myself. Where is it? Wait, don't tell me...oh, yeah.”

Throw Another Chair On the Fire
The last combustible chair had gone to the Great Spirit on a wing and a prayer at the now famous Last Cookout. It was a purely sacrificial offering to cement my vow to “live outside and never sit down again.” I am a man of many vows and adjectives and sometimes I get carried away. The downside is that there is no fuel on hand to get the Quasitron up and running.

So Now, Let The Rambling Begin!
OK. Hmmm...typing monkeys, Shakespeare, what else? Well, there is always Bicycles.

Born A Ramblin' Man
My friend Gypsy ByTrade is meandering around Alaska and is apparently preparing to meander down here for a little dirt time. He has been posting some great stuff for anyone interested in the Wild World of Fat Tired Bikes as well as dispensing some wisdom and tech about How Ya Do It. This is a guy who has spent more time on a bicycle than off of one and knows his stuff.

His buddy Cass Gilbert at While Out Riding is currently in Ecuador and posting some very nice stuff that is definitely worth a look and will put a little foreign flavor in your day. I have always been fascinated by these cyclists who trek Out There, traveling light and doing some valid work letting the everyday people in Other Places know that not all Americans weigh 300 pounds and drive 40 ton four-wheel-drive behemoths in order to get to a McDonald's that they can see from their front porch. Somehow that is important and maybe if the Heads of States just stayed on the porch and let us commoners sort things out we could do it with a dance-off or a singing competition or a pie-eating contest instead of killing half the population.

I have seen some pretty wild stuff at drunken family reunions (remember, Granny Comstock was a Hatfield) and those church socials can get pretty rough but neither of these events require battleships or nuclear weaponry. Not yet, at least.

Jaquie Phelan is in Europe doing something; I can never quite tell what but I am confident that whatever it is, the girl is representing and making two wheels and our clan look good.

Let's see, what else...

If this doesn't pick up soon I may change my chair busting policy.

“Hush, Voice, I'm free-associating, letting my mind wonder about while I type in case a nugget pops out.”

Sounds scary.

How To Be A Senior
Lloyd Khan is wandering the streets of New York City, sending back brief reports and photos that will make you wish you were there. If I can be like Lloyd when I hit seventy-plus, I'll be glad to do it. I have been a fan and follower of his work for almost forty years now and he never disappoints. Go to his site when you want a little whimsy and delight. It only takes a minute and you will be glad you did.

I'll Bet You Wish I Had Some Wood Or Coal
This planet is, for now, our total reality. Our ventures into space thus far are the equivalent to sticking a toe in the water. We haven't really been to Space Its Ownself, outside the Solar System: we are like children at the age when Mom first lets us play around the corner, out of her sight. And of course, as soon as we venture around that corner we find ourselves in a strange new world. Even if we have been around that corner before, it is strange and new because we are seeing it on our own, with our own eyes and souls. How we conduct ourselves there is up to us, now; we are on our own and we gotta do it alone; Mom ain't there and it is up to us. For myself, I have always loved rounding that corner and while I have often reveled in my misanthropic worldview I am, (as I age and grow in wisdom and girth) I am finally realizing that it is this planet that makes up the goldfish bowl and this is it: it is just us and we better get good at it or all the typing Chimpanzees in any number of Infinite Universes will not be able to come up with a story that will get us out of the Truth once Mom comes looking to find out why we were late for dinner and if our Home-work has been done.

Trailer Park Disclaimer
I promise to lay in a new pile of wood and coal for the Quasitron 6000 and type better next time. Don't hold it against me, I am only one goldfish in a big, small bowl. I am riding my bicycle and I hope all of you, also, are doing the same. It counts, somehow.

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in't.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Philosophy Phactory

Friday, June 1, 2012

Signs and Portents

Dark Clouds
After the Last Cookout that took place under glowering thunderclouds of unrest, I found myself the next morning shuffling through the living room/bike shop/kitchen of my trailer, wondering why my faithful yellow dog was growling at me from under the workbench, wondering where my pants had got to and wondering if there was any more beer in the refrigerator. I went to look but imagine my surprise when I saw that my dorm-size little reefer unit was not there. I scratched my head and other parts and shuffled over to the coffee maker. I flipped up the lid and it gracefully detached itself and flew out the window.

“This ain't gonna be a normal Monday,” I found myself thinking. So I got my white steed down from the work stand, took her outside and prepared to ride a wobbly ride to the Seven-Eleven for a much needed jolt of caffeine. What I saw out there worried me greatly. No carnage. No bodies, no empty beer cans, no rib bones or discarded rum bottles. The whole party area was neat and swept and the plastic chairs wiped and stacked. There was my little fridge, humming contentedly on the patio.

“Not good,” I said out loud. Daisy growled a little louder from under the bench. I knew I would need coffee before anything else and started to mount my bike, then realized I had not yet solved the missing pants problem. Way back when I was a young rascal I learned to always put my pants in the same place every night in case I had to find them in the dark, due to fire or police or early arrivals. (I have an old friend about whom I could write volumes. One time down in Costa Rica he had a particularly ravishing tica with whom he would spend many an amorous afternoon lounging in languid joy. Her husband was a disc jockey at the local radio station and they would tune in his show as a kind of timer for their liaisons. The husband, smelling a rat (an Anglo rat) as jealous husbands often do, got crafty and taped the last hour of his program and headed home early. My friend, about whom I could write volumes, no longer goes to Costa Rica. He really liked it there, too.)

Where was I? Oh yes, my pants. I went back into the house, simultaneously realizing that wherever my pants were, there also was my wallet. Seven-Eleven coffee is pricy. But No. No pants. So I dug into my trunk for my other pair, went over to my change jar and dug out as many quarters as I could, pulled on my least crusty t-shirt and saddled up to sally forth towards one of my highly rare ventures into a commercial chain-type retail establishment.

It's Better In the Morning
Man! How seldom I get out on the bike at the sunrise hour! Birds were singing and the air was as crisp and delightful and as breathable as, uh, as...the air was cool and sweet and an early gentle tailwind pushed me and the bike down the sidewalk for a ghosting mellow glide that was just the thing for a hung-over Monday morning. Fresh from the depths of my dreams and the bemusedly befuddled stupor of too much drink and too much food and too much shouting, knowing damn well that there was something drastically out of kilter with this Monday morning and my life at the Park, I didn't care.

Magic In the Morning
I didn't care, man! What magic there is in a bicycle! I was a soggy Superman, bedecked in a clean uniform, flying slowly and gracefully on patrol the half-mile to the coffee store. I have moments of glory on my bike, fierce battles with the wind:  I have times when I find myself so far from home that I have to wonder how I got there; there are odd sightings of road kill, human monkeyshines and frequently unbelievable driving by normal-looking people who must in reality be Hollywood stunt drivers. There are, indeed, many stories to tell...but I hereby declare in print and in writing with my hand on my heart (or where my heart would be if I had one), that there is NOTHING that compares to the quiet slow glide and the first few pedal strokes of an early morning sojourn into yet another glorious day.

Meanwhile, Back At the Park
But enough of that. I got my coffee and I got back home to my oddly neat homestead and I found my pants and soon learned that the events of the previous evening were just as gruesome as the lack of physical evidence implied; but this  Booger is a Happy Place (or tries to be) and a Blog of Bicycles, not Drama. So we will set that tale aside for another day.

I Rode Some Riding
Instead, let's talk about yesterday's ride. I got in 55 miles without dying and I had a blast. The wind has apparently chosen me for its own pet toy on the semi-long rides. It somehow manages to always stay from the same direction: whichever one I am headed. But in typical trailer park fashion, I am rebellious and I laugh at the wind. Hah! Hah! LOL! LMFAO!  Take that, Aeolus!  I boldly pedal off, ignoring his  breezy replies and I do my miles, man. I rode up to Daytona against the wind, hacking away at it with strong legs and a head full of recent trouble and worry that made me strong; manic but strong. (My friend, about whom I could write volumes, used to be a wrestler. He called it “retard strong,” which I have always found hilarious in context, but of course otherwise politically incorrect. Although retardation and politics seem to be correct enough in context, if you ask me.)

Just across the way from the Daytona Racetrack I was hitting a good lick, doing 22 mph with a momentary and rare tailwind, something I have learned to take advantage of and enjoy whenever it happens, however fleeting. An ambulance was wailing up from behind and this is a busy and confused thoroughfare filled with uncertain drivers of the touristy variety; they sometimes forget that they are driving a rented automobile as they gaze in awe at the Giant Stadium of Vehicular Wonder there alongside the road. I was listening over my shoulder as that siren grew louder and wondering if it might not be something to worry about as distracted drivers pulled over to get out of the way; then I remembered that this is Florida and nobody pulls over for police cars or ambulances except for the European tourists who might be mistaking all the commotion for an invasion from Mars.

But imagine my surprise as the ambulance blasted past me and at THAT PRECISE MOMENT had a massive blowout on their right rear tire! KABLAM!   I mean man, it was LOUD and I was certain that the debris and escaping compressed air would mark my doom. The ambulance swerved dramatically into my path and I knew that I was in trouble because everything shifted into slow motion which is a sure sign of impending calamity. I had nowhere to go: as usual the bike lane was serving as emergency parking or a place to pull over and take pictures of the quaint and scruffy Florida Homeless Cyclist. To my right was an un-jumpable curb and to my left was four lanes of freaked out drivers, so I did what I had to do: I locked up the brakes, got a little sideways and came to rest about four feet from the back of that disabled meat wagon.

Good Ol' Schwinn
As near as I can ascertain those are the original 1981 brake pads and they did their job just fine. I climbed over the curb, felt the rear of my bibs to make sure there was nothing in there but padding and then was surprised to realize that this tumultuous event took place directly across the highway from that Outback Steakhouse job that I have been stalking! What does it all mean? I can sense that the Gods are talking to me, but as usual, they are talking God-talk. Why don't they just do it like the Old Testament, where God would say “Hey Jonah, I need you to get over to Kentucky (or wherever it was) and tell the people there a bunch of stuff.” Then, unlike Jonah, I would go to Kentucky and Speak the Word, as long as God helped out with some bus fare.

But this is 2012 and these modern Gods speak in mysterious words that they probably get off Twitter, which I don't understand.

The Coffee Was Good
But the coffee? The coffee was good. I am proud that I can glide a half mile on my trusty thirty-year-old white ten speed with one hand without spilling a drop.  It gives me pleasure to bravely survive drastic vehicular events,  although I do wonder what happened to the victim that the crippled ambulance was on it's way to save.  The Pines Are Whispering and I am confidant that if the Gods have a Message that they want me to carry to Kentucky or anywhere else, they will sooner or later find a way to tell me. Until then, the mornings are sweet, the air is fine and these days, well,  these days that is enough for me.

Peace my Friends! There is more to tell and I am here to tell it!

Yer pal,


Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Survival School