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2010-04-05 12:44 PM
I must have been 15 or 16. I had a ten-speed. I think it was white, I think it had thin, sun-bleached fabric bar tape, I don't remember anything else about it, and I could be making both those details up.
I rode it to school.
Around that same time, I got a subscription to Bicycling, which looked like this:
and not like this:
I liked bicycling (the activity) because I've always had these legs, and I liked Bicycling (the magazine) because it made me feel like I was better at bicycling (the activity) than I was. I didn't read all the way through all the articles (or maybe through any of them), and I sort of skipped anything with a tool in it--I didn't learn until later that tools only make sense after I've tried to use them once--but there was a word, a new one, full of meaning and unattainable romance:
I liked romance (the sweeping grandeur) and I liked Romance (the language group), so century... Oh yes, that was a picture to put myself into. Stories of sun-crisped wire men pushing through Furnace Creek through sheer will, fortunate genetics, and a mystical understanding of hydration? That's the picture for me. That and being fatally gored while saving a grateful girl from a charging rhino. Both totally me. Totally. A pity neither was likely to happen in my lifetime. A real waste of my potential.
"I want to do a century," I told my mother. But boys like me got winded riding to school. We got dropped on local uphills by our twin cousins with calves so starkly bulbous, the pale hairy things had lobes. We were good at other stuff, more important stuff, creative stuff, intelligent stuff, not romantic cowboy stuff. Nothing epic-scale. We knew the shortness of our grasps.
The first bike I remember was a Schwinn. A big one. With training wheels. I was... I don't know. Ten? It was something like this, only bigger, blockier, redder, and new:
The big scar all the way up my left forearm? The one that didn't fade until well into adulthood? That was jousting. With a pool cue. On that bike. Alone. Into a yucca plant.
It was the only big bike with training wheels in the neighborhood. The other boys had Stingrays and Huffys with banana seats. I didn't know what banana seats were, exactly, but they were desirable. And the bikes didn't have training wheels. I got poker-faced offers to trade bikes. I couldn't tell what the mockery was about. I just said no.
I rode it up the street. I rode it down the street.
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When I was older, I was allowed to ride it around the block.
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The other side of the block is where I wiped out trying to wave to a girl I liked. Message to former self: Didn't you learn from the yucca plant?
I have fallen off my book.
I've had this idea for an article about how riding brevets is like writing novels. It's a pretty good idea, but I kept thinking of interesting points while actually out on brevets, and then couldn't remember them after the fatigue and the post-ride crash, so I'm going to keep a pen by my cue sheet this year and jot the points down when they reoccur to me. Between that and what I've already made notes about, I'll have a complete outline.
So when I wiped out on my book, naturally it seemed I should do what I'd do on a brevet: Fix whatever's broken, use zip ties if you have to, cut the derailleur off and ride it as a single-speed if you have to, just keep going. Get to the end before that last controle closes. Worry about putting everything back in ideal condition a few days later. For now, just get there. You have one goal.
A few days ago, I was thinking about sports injuries. Maybe that's a more apt way to look at it. You don't push through those. You let them heal. You do exercises.
Okay, that's interesting. So it would mean...what, exactly? What exercises? Short stories? Poems? But I don't want to write short stories right now--might as well use that same effort on this novel--and I only write poems when there's no other way to express something. They're not exercises. They're relief. I mean, unless they're limericks, which are trained-bear plate-juggling, or haiku, which are bonbons.
Last year I completed brevets of 200K, 300K, and 400K. I did the 400K (about 250 miles) in 25 hours. Impressive to people who don't ride distance. Impressive to me, one year earlier. But I was the last man on the course by two hours. This year I'm aiming for better time and a dumb little medal:
That means I need to finish a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K in the same year. This year's first attempt at a 200K will be Saturday. It's a hilly one. I've undertrained since losing the job that let me commute 26 miles every day, but this last month of weekend centuries should help.
Yeah...that unattainable romance? Those unreachable epics? Now they're called "Saturday training rides."
This weekend I did two of them. Bye-bye kisses, please, boys. You might not be awake when I get home.
Today's a day of sloth and recovery from the back-to-back training rides, and this morning I thought, "Cross-training."
Cross-training keeps you active and leaves the damaged parts alone. I haven't written anything significant in this book for a couple of months anyway. Might as well just LEAVE IT ALONE. I mean, since that's what I'm doing anyway.
So what does book cross-training look like? Before I'd finished thinking the question, I thought music.
I miss music. It's just...I can barely get anything besides survival stuff done anymore, so it didn't make any sense to add more. No films right now. They need investors. No music. It takes time when I should be writing.
I think I'm going to cut out the writing. For now. Let it heal on its own. Just keep the areas around it limber.
This is not how working writers talk. But since I'm not one:
Reading this, Larry? Remember we were going to finally make some good recordings of the Feynman Songs?
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