07 August 2014

Nomad or Wanderer 3 - MotoNomad Trailer

Suggest opening in youtube and watching full screen, high def. Love me some belly dancers, but all around cool production.

06 August 2014

Nomad or Wanderer 2

Certain places settle the mind and calm the humming anxiety to keep moving, at least for a while. There have been places where I've felt satisfied and remained for longer than the normal stint of 6-9 months. Those places suited my life at that point and I still look back fondly at their attributes and charms but when I consider being there now, they don't seem realistic or overly attractive. The pull of one location at one time may be the thing the pushes me away now. Once I feel I've learned the core capabilities and make up of a place, it's usually time to move on. Some are shallow and easy to learn. Others are deeper and more complex.

There are places I've lived where I could picture myself staying and enjoying but then again, there are so many other places I haven't been that seem interesting. Which evokes the question: where is a desirable place to settle for a while? Which things from different places fit into what's needed in one's life? Obviously, it's an individual thing (or at least it should be). For me, it's always changing.

When you consider the definition of "places"you need to figure out whether you're speaking of towns, cities, regions, even countries. For instance, I like New England in general but I don't like NYC. I like Asheville but not the Southeast (in general). You also need to think about other geographical distinctions like mountains, desert, ocean, forest, jungle, or plains (some people actually like plains - go figure). And then there's the demographic makeup of a place. Is it representative of the majority of the country or is it very different like Detroit 83% black or Grand Junction with less than 1% black or Miami, Dade County 66% Hispanic? There are pockets of wealth and (much larger) pockets of, let's say, struggling populations, both of which generally facilitate one dimensional environments that seem to ostracize (indirectly or directly) other socioeconomic groups.

Which type of experience are you interested in? Personally, I enjoy diversity mostly because it's easy to lose touch with reality in terms of understanding and accepting other cultural lifestyles. People tend to have a herd mentality and it seems they start acting like each other, even looking like each other(!) in homogeneous communities, so it's nice to have wide variety wherever you live, but that's just my opinion (like everything else I write here). You simply cannot understand or know a town, city, region, people, etc. without living there for a while. Spending two weeks in a place won't do it. From experience, it takes at least six months to fully grasp a place and its people.

Life can be complicated enough, so I can understand the desire to settle in one place and focus on the important things. Living in the bubble of daily routine gives a sense of stability and comfort in the familiarity and predictability. I have attention deficit disorder, for sure. After all these years, I've only recently realized it. It's the only thing that explains the anxiety I have at the thought of being one place or doing one thing for any length of time. I'm a terrible office employee and have trouble staying focused on one project unless it's incredibly challenging and dynamically changing constantly. So, a daily routine lasting longer than a few months makes my skin crawl. Heck, I have trouble sitting through a movie without getting antsy wanting to do something else, so how can I be expected to remain stationary in one city or town? Enough of the possible psychosis of why I wander, might return to it later.

05 August 2014

Nomad or Wanderer 1

When I think of nomadic life I think of people, like a group, who know what they want and move around to obtain it. Wandering, on the other hand, seems more intrinsic, without direct purpose, and solitary (mostly).

If pushed to answer why I move around constantly, like for literally my entire life, I'd be unable to give a specific answer. Of course, in hindsight, I can see why I moved to certain places. But there's never been any sort of focus on the result (or cause, for that matter) that's driven the movement. Sure, I can give practical answers when asked by regular people, so I don't sound crazy. "It's too hot, too cold, too big of a city, too small, too little diversity, too little culture, too many rich white folks, too little interest in history, too flat, too redneck, too conservative " Those are reasons to leave a place, of course. The reasons to go to a place are nearly the same - culture, diversity, history, etc. (remember, these are publicly acceptable answers I give when asked). When I really have to come up with the true, raw reasons, I usually cannot. How does one explain why packing up and leaving a comfortable setting is right for him? Isn't that a gauge of "success" - to be settled and comfortable?

I recently purchased a "guide book" that someone has spent over 30 years writing. It came in the mail today, wrapped in brown grocery bag paper. It only comes in homemade paper form and there's no website or clear directions on exactly how to obtain this book. The fact that it took 30 years to write isn't the neat thing to me (though it's definitely cool). It's the experience he lived to gather the information first hand and be able to record it. The second I learned of the guide book, I thought of one of my favorite pieces of writing, the Lewis and Clark Journals. The comparison is a little heady, at first thought, but when you think of one guy on a motorcycle winding his way all over (and I mean all over) Mexico and Central America alone and having the presence of mind and desire to record practical details of it, you begin to see more than just a slight resemblance to the Lewis and Clark journals.

His "lifetime" gathering of information and deep desire to share it, albeit in a rudimentary manner, is impressive to me. I love passion in people, especially people who place themselves in difficult situations to live their passion. I'm guilty of romanticizing certain lifestyles that recall the past, hardships, exploration of the mind and the unknown. I think we all do that to certain degrees. Why else do we place such social media value on people living "on the edge" - climbing mountains, living in the woods, seemingly living minimally? If one is doing those things, why the need to share it with Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram? And why share it, especially, if there's really nothing of value given to the audience other than a photo or a "look at us" message?

This guy, who spent over 30 years gathering information, obviously didn't do it for accolades or any other pats on the back. He's steadfast against overtly promoting his guidebook and yet it's so obvious that he takes great pride in every word of it. I'm grateful for people like him and it gives me hope that there is more to daily life than being settled and comfortable. Being stationary is fine but at least be creative and unique.

31 July 2014

Existing and Writing 3

Write like you talk. You want your readers to fall easily into your narrative, so focus on keeping it conversational. We talked about voice in Part 1 and content in Part 2, now we'll talk a little about style. I read a lot. You probably read a lot, too, whether you think so or not. Aside from scholars who live off reading and writing literary critical theory, I believe most of us enjoy reading a more conversational style.

I studied under Diane Wakowski for poetry (the creative side of my writing), and under Mary Lawlor (an underling of Harold Bloom), along with a sentimental influence, William Lockwood, for critical theory. Dr. Lawlor, whom I also had a crush on as an undergraduate, gave me the tools to really appreciate modern and post modern writing and the American West, specifically the notion of the "frontier". Dr. Lockwood (a cyclist back then as well!) introduced me to one of my favorite poets and gave me a signed copy from his personal collection after I toiled for days on an analysis of the poem "Westport". It was then that I learned that "+++" and "Yes!" meant great things from him in the margins of my graded essays. Lockwood appreciated my need to find new dimension and meaning in everything I read, even when I argued that Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was most certainly about suicide or the subconscious desire to kill oneself. Ah, youth.

Regardless of the formalities in the "learning", I realized early on that both my poetry and prose languished under artificial exuberance (i.e. flowery writing that tried too hard). One year I wrote over 500 poems, one to two a day for the year was my goal. Most were heavy handed and make me cringe today when I force myself to read them. The simple ones that meant something to me at the time still flow today. Same with the story writing. I see the transformation from trying too hard to simply allowing the words to link together seamlessly, like a conversation. It works so much better.

If you speak directly, then write directly. Avoid going outside of your normal vocabulary; it will only make the reading strained and tedious. The natural feel of your normal conversational vocabulary and pace will come through and draw the reader in. If you're a dreamer and talk in circles, taking several stories to get to the main point, then write without constraint - sort of like James' stream of consciousness. The meaning will come through and the audience that matters will stay to the end, and get it. To continue the comparison with photo in social media, the natural images of something you personally feel are unique and interesting will make more of an impact than an image that means nothing to you that you enhance with some filter to make it "interesting". Don't write (or live, for that matter) like you're "affected", as my mother would say. Write like you talk.

30 July 2014

Existing and Writing 2

Content and subject matter can be almost irrelevant if you have some style and creativity. Where does style and creativity come from? Well, as covered in part 1, I believe it comes partly from a mixture of hardship and realism in life and living. I say partly because you obviously need to have inherent skill, training in both a grammatical sense and a creative sense, and a deep passion to express things in words (both in written and verbal form). Anyone can write something interesting about something interesting. The World Trade Center towers collapsed and anyone could write "My heart aches for those involved" and it's a poignant statement. Writing about the mundane takes skill. Actually, I mean, writing something interesting about the mundane takes skill. Most don't get it and that's cool. The world is now full of banal public writing that used to reside at best in a hand written personal journal or more likely just laid dormant in the short term memory of people's minds.

Content and subject matter don't need to be unique (really, nothing humans create is unique any longer, but that's another post series all together). Subject matter actually works best if it is common, yet presented from an odd viewpoint or angle with a separate plane of meaning (trope). A simple yet robust example is Robert Frost's poem "Departmental" in which he writes about ants (can't get much more common or basic than that, right?). Well, the use of the simple insect and the shifting focus from small simplicity to complex concepts unfolds into a comparison to humans and our society that has become automated both literally and figuratively, where we seem to act based more on what is expected rather than what is in our hearts. Thoroughly Departmental.

Simply regurgitating what one observes or experiences is, well, boring. It's boring, mostly, because most of us have experienced that same thing in some form. It's like the photos you see of someone's gear laid out the night before a run/ride/hike/trip, whatever. You're like, "Wow, that's interesting - socks, shoes, hat, water bottle." That's clearly why people feel the need to enhance most of the photos they graciously share with the world. The photos are images that have enjoyed heavy exposure already, thus the need to filter the image in the hopes of shifting the presentation to make it interesting.

You need to not only observe and experience common things but ask what it means. Why did something occur the way it did? What influence does it have on me? On others? The fact that it may be too boring to write about could be the thing that makes it interesting to write about. What makes this thing stand apart from similar things? Why is this particular thing interesting this time? You may not have the answer. Most don't.

Today's my Birthday, so go ahead and take the day off work and write an essay about something common. Your boss will understand.

Part 3

29 July 2014

Existing and Writing 1

One's voice is a delicate and bulky thing at the same time. The tender nuances can carry waves of power both exquisite and crushing.

A friend once commented that my writing voice "is fucking sublime" (a true compliment, considering the source). Like a family of complex personalities, that voice is but one child in the din of the gathering, each voice vying for attention, acknowledgement, love. From where and how do true voices come?

Restlessness and pain create the most naturally pure and divine voices, like intricate webs shimmering in the light breeze and dew of sunrise. You hold your breath while admiring them in that exact point in time when you stop contemplating who you are and why you exist and simply blend into the creation of something unique.

Perspective is critical when you require clarity in meaning. Though it can seem random to the casual reader, I often move between first and second person narrative to keep the reader engaged. It seems to layer the scene I've laid out to give it a real dimension that gives the reader the sense that he is somehow involved and not simply a passive voyeur. But I digress.

Back to the fuel that runs the voice. Pain, restlessness, the naked eye pure view, lensless and stark. It takes years and layers of increased internal suffering and acknowledgement to strip away the influence of media and similar outlets/stimulants. People may tell themselves it's a dark place in which to live, but that's the easy way out - glazing over the reality because it's the path of least resistance. On the polar contrary, a critical view with clarity doesn't need to be some dark reverse-solipsistic distopic swamp where you feel only despair and fear. In the right hands, it's liberating. All life cannot be a filtered instagram image.

Part 2

21 July 2014

Telluride 100 Race Report

Whoa. What the hell is this, a blog post? Yeah, big deal, right? Whatever.

On our last Elevation Trail show last week, Gary asked me when my last "real" race took place. I had to think back to the San Diego 100 in June 2012. Not a whole lot of writing I cared to publicly share since then. Plus, I just needed to shut down most every public outlet, save for the most innocuous drivel on Twitter. Regardless, I've been honing the writing skill and practicing my best Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound poetry reading impersonations. Yeah, pretty hot lifestyle I've been banging out lately. Since getting booted from my last job, having lots of time and little money, I have to keep myself entertained on the cheap and down low.

It's been hotter than a four balled tom cat here. So, what do I do? I wait until mid day 100 degrees to train. It's like a big FU to mother nature, just like last winter when I'd go out and train when it was negative 10 degrees. Tough or stupid, take your pick.

Back when my collarbone was still healing (it's still technically in two pieces but I think that's a permanent thing now), I learned about a new 100 mile mtb race, the Telluride 100, which was to take place in the far off future of July. Shit, those two months shot by and here I was just a couple days before the race last week.

As far as training, the trails around here are harder than string theory and I can't get any real sustained training in on them (now I see why no real pros live here). Fortunately, my neighbor has like 9 sweet road bikes and loaned me one to train on. I put that sucker to work, riding up and over the Colorado National Monument about a million times (or once a day for the last month). I uncorked a couple fast ascents a week ago and felt fairly ready for the 100. I'd also been hitting the gym religiously for quite a while now, so I have a chest and guns like Andre the Giant (maybe a slight exaggeration. slight.). Whatever, I'm stronger than I was in college when I weighed 170-180 lbs like the beefcake I was.

So, upon learning of the Telluride 100, I invited the RD, Tobin, onto the ET show. Here it is if you want to be wildly entertained. http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/telluride-100-tobin-behling/ The man knows what he's doing and puts on some sweet races (even if some of them are mind bending hard).

My excitement for the race was building and yet I had absolutely zero nerves or worries about it. I had the mindset (correctly) that it was going to be an adventure and damn hard, so I figured there was nothing to be nervous about. Ride within my technical ability on the screaming descents and keep the power even, strong, and sustainable on the climbs and the rest would work itself out.

I drove down to Telluride in my 1983 pick up that's so rusty it barely casts a shadow. I'd never driven it further than the food store, so I prayed to the Dodge Gods and it made it down there. The campground didn't take reservations, but I figured I'd get a spot since I got down there pretty early Friday. Unfortunately, I was met at the entrance with a "Campground is FULL" sign. So, I drove up to the little Parks n Rec building where there was another "FULL" sign. Whatever. I went in and the guy in there was like, "Well, there might be one walk in space available on the other side of the river." He, of course, wouldn't allow me to pay for it then and there and reserve it. He instead said I should go to it and if it was indeed unoccupied I could leave something there to claim it and then come back and pay for it. I'm so used to the backwards-ness of parks and open space management that I barely smirked and headed out the door to claim my spot. Lesson and Pro Tip: Ignore signs and make someone tell you you can't be there. Anyway, I got a spot, put my tent up and was situated.

A guy I coach from Arizona decided on a whim to race this thing without much (any) mtb training, though he is fit and training for Leadville 100, so he figured he'd give it a shot. Mistake. As a coach, I have a tough time saying no to athletes who want to push themselves. I should've this time. I felt pretty bad when I learned that he dropped fairly early in the race (the first climb is a heart breaker) after driving all the way up there. At least we got to hang out before the race, which was fun.

A little ways up the first climb to Black Bear Pass. Start was way over on the other side of town down below.
Some big daddys showed up for this thing, including pros Jeff Kerkove, Yuki Ikeda, and Olympian Travis Brown, among others. Sheese. They were pushing the first climb hard. I was settled in and pleasantly surprised to be feeling so good, even with the length of the climb (9 miles) and the altitude (12,840 ft on Black Bear). The descents were hair raising if you wanted to blow caution to the wind and fly down them. I didn't want to crash and break my back (the only thing I haven't broken yet), so I was careful and as quick as possible.

Above tree line. Way above.
I hit the start/finish area after the first loop (40 miles) in around 4:28 or something like that and in 18th place. Everyone underestimated the course. I quickly mentioned to my buddy Dan, the UCI official at the race, that there'd be a lot of folks not making the first cutoff. He was like, "Uh, yeah, we'll probably adjust that." Tobin gave me a pep talk and said the second loop wasn't as tough as the first. Liar. But I needed to hear it to get my ass out of there. From that transition I climbed non stop for two hours. It was brutal.

I had a loose understanding of the main features of the rest of the course and just kept counting down tenths of miles on the climbs - "Just 2.4 miles more. Just 1.6 more. Just 5 tenths, 4, 3..." and then I'd crest the f*cker and be like a little kid, no hands 40 mph down the other side, Weeeeeeee!

The last climb was obviously not insulting enough, so someone introduced a hot wooly blanket of biting flies and mosquitos. At 3 mph giving everything you've got and having bugs biting the shit out of you (I have welts on my back), you just want to either cry or light the San Juans on fire and break your bike over your knee.

The final descent was glorious and you knew it was coming because you could see the town of Telluride and knew it was a couple thousand feet below you. I had been passed by one guy and I passed another guy, so was still holding my 18th position and now I saw I had a chance at sub 11 hours, so I hauled ass over the last 6 miles and crossed the line in 10:57.

I nailed the nutrition (thanks VFuel), hydration, electrolytes and the bike held up solid (other than the rear brake squealing on every revolution... all day. Eee! Eee! Eee!, etc.) All the water crossings were kickass and made the bike look pretty gnarly by the end. It was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. Hardrock is hard (duh) but you're never really pushing yourself to the physical limit like you can on a bike. Push until your eyes roll back, recover a little, push until you're nauseous, recover a little, do it again, over and over. The beauty of mtb or cycling endurance races in general is that you recover pretty quickly. Other than heavy legs and swollen hands, I felt good the next day.

Thanks so much to Tobin and his wife, Jennifer. They put everything into this race and the details were obvious. It felt like a race that had a lot of history and was dialed in already. I love Tobin's course marking. Too many events nowadays are WAY over marked. I felt like I was in a truly adventurous ride in remote areas, yet with a sign here and there, exactly where you'd need one. Very intuitive and jaw dropping beautiful. I could only manage one photo on the first climb, then it was all business. The Telluride 100 MTB will become a classic. It already is in my mind.