The New Secondhand Smoke…

A recurring theme in my thought-blender this week, while churning through the canyon communities of Rainbow, Pala, Valley Center, and here in Fallbrook, was the notion of secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke, as we all know, does peripheral damage to people who never light up. The extent of that damage can be hard to trace, but we can say with certainty that secondhand smoke has caused illness, birth defects, and even death in people who’ve spent significant time near smokers or in places were smoke gathers in excess — casinos for example.

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Somehow this week, pushing my way past roadside shrapnel, broken glass, and the uneven pavement of these rural San Diego roads, I connected the idea of secondhand smoke with other secondhand toxins.

These are everywhere these days, and we’re all breathing them in, whether we realize it or not.

In no particular order, they are…

Secondhand ignorance
Secondhand grandeur
Secondhand hate
Secondhand weakness
Secondhand prejudice
Secondhand intolerance

They are grown in the darkest places of the human psyche — where bacteria best take hold, and exhaled, sometimes with malice, but often innocently.

Secondhand fear though, is chief among them. Secondhand fear is the mortar that seals the gaps and holds the tiles of all the other toxins together. Sometimes when I ride — often when I ride, I’m simply trying to outrun all of these toxins. They are at the core of my people fatigue.

In the same way that people have gotten sick, and even died due to secondhand smoke, I’m beginning to wonder if all this secondhand hate isn’t adversely affecting my health — not just my mental health, but my physical health. I’m not trying to be clever when I pose that idea either.
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I ask myself regularly if, when I stand in proximity to others, as I interact with people on social media, and as I receive information via print and broadcast media, it isn’t similar to passing through casino, only to be quietly poisoned by all that secondhand smoke…?

Secondhand smoke is a legitimate public health concern — governments have regulated it, and those regulations have saved millions of lives. Secondhand hate though, and its lesser constituents can never be regulated because the implications in relation to our right to free speech are too significant. Still, as I ride my bike each day, often pedaling as fast as I can to outrun it all, I wonder if we can’t police this ourselves, just a little bit better.

This ride though, it works. I ride and I forget. Then I come back — to a society filled with gutless behaviors fronted by secondhand hate, and I sink back into myself, questioning whether the toxins from others are weakening my immune system. That’s when I begin to think about tomorrow’s ride. Is it tomorrow yet…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
204 miles
10,500’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
12,000 calories
13 hours 34 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Elbow. Enjoy…

What’s On My Mind…

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about the current health crisis this week. People have had enough, myself included. I thought maybe, if I could work myself into a creative mode, I might be able to offer up a distraction.

Yesterday though, while stopped at an intersection on my bike, and looking at two older people in a silver Lexus beside me, both wearing masks, l burst into tears. It’s the only time I can remember freezing when seeing a red light turn green. I wasn’t able to move my feet or legs. I just gasped with deep breaths as a couple of tears fall from my cheek to my tongue. At some point, it dawned on me that green means go and I got back into the rhythm of the ride. But for the next 30 miles, I was stuck in that moment.

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A couple of nights ago I sent a note to a friend, a surgeon in North Florida, checking to see how he’s doing in the midst of all this. He replied by telling me he was doing okay. Like me, he lives in a rural area where things aren’t so bad. But he included this quote in his reply…

”Yesterday, I watched a doctor in Spain crying as he reported on how they are letting people over 65 die so the ventilators can be used for younger patients. That was hard.”

That thought was still fresh in my head when I broke down at the intersection and froze at the green light.

I had already been reflecting on stories I’d seen from Italy, New York, and beyond. I’ve been thinking about my friend Gayle who lives in India — I’m very concerned for their plight.

Two mornings ago I was entering the local market when I passed a grocery cart stacked so high with food and supplies that I couldn’t see the person pushing it from behind. It was a friend and client. She ducked her head as I passed, so not to be seen by me. I didn’t let on.

In California, for now anyway, restaurants can be open — for takeout only. I’ve seen a number of social media posts suggesting we support these small businesses by purchasing some of our meals from them. I’m sorry, but if things are really this bad, then restaurants should be closed. If grocery stores are open, people can eat. Having restaurants open might be good for the restaurant owners and the few employees getting any work out of it, but it puts more people into the mix and right now, I think that risk far outweighs any reward.
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The last day I worked was March 11th. I’m losing $300-$350 per day by not working. I can’t say I’m taking that loss with a smile, but I’ll figure it out because not working is the moral thing to do. I know of three fitness trainers/facilities that are still operating, despite the order that closed all gyms and fitness outlets. One is a multi-use gym, and the other two are private facilities like mine. One is directly across the street from me. I’m not bitter, truly, I just don’t understand.

Our often criticized governor, Gavin Newsom, was one of the first to invoke the shelter-in-place order. Whatever shortcomings he might possess as governor, taking that bold action so early has saved hundreds, and will ultimately save thousands of lives, though that may never be quantified. Newsom, in my opinion, has been an exemplary leader through this. Those participating in the effort to recall Newsom, might take a look at their children, spouses, or grandparents before taking another step.

I feel helpless. I have close ties to several nonprofits in the community. I’m on the volunteer call list for a few of them. However, I also care for my 90-year-old mother and need to keep my exposure limited on her behalf. I’m doing no volunteering other than for my own household.

In the meantime, the dog and the cat are happy and rarely without human contact. I’m giving mom more Coca-Cola than usual because, why not…? She’s 90 and is survivor of the great depression and World War II. Until further notice, Coke is a vegetable in this household — 3 servings per day.

As for me, my routine hasn’t changed much aside from missing work. I walk daily, taking dozens of pictures while Stroodle’s ‘hurry up’ eyes stare me down. I ride my bike because it soothes the chaos in my head, if only for a while. I write, because I feel compelled to do so and to share.

I’m hopeful, that this will be a turning point for our species. I’m not necessarily optimistic, but I’m hopeful. As I write this, I’m watching an episode of Love It Or List It. There’s a couple arguing about the color of backsplash above the granite countertop of the $900,000 home they’re considering. They’re a part of the reason I’m not optimistic.

The reasons why I’m hopeful though, despite not being optimistic, are all the people in the medical community who are literally putting their lives on the line right now and will be doing so for months, including my doctor friend in North Florida.

And when I contemplate what lessons, if any, we’ll learn from this, the only one that’s clear to me right now is to say I love you to everything that moves, because we truly are in this together.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
182 miles
7,800 climbing
15.0 mph avg
10,300 calories
12 hours 10 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this. After 12 years of waiting, a brand new album from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks. Enjoy…

The Cleanup Crew…

Yesterday’s ride was spectacular. I pedaled up Rice Canyon — a two-lane farm road just east of the Pala Indigenous People community. A cool spring morning with broken skies recovering from an overnight rain. The shades of green right now are stunning. It’s a ride I’ll remember for a long time, as well as the story that took place in my head.

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I imagined a conversation between an expedition leader from a nearby planet and one of his lieutenants….

Expedition Leader: And what can you tell me about them, you know, as a species…?

Lieutenant: They weren’t like us. It appears they were an emotional people, overly reactive and lacked common sense. They put the individual ahead of the family, the family ahead of the tribe, and the tribe ahead of the species.

Expedition Leader: Did they have a golden age…?

Lieutenant: Oddly Sir, yes. It appears to have always been the one they had just come out of, or the one they were going into do next. Never though, does it appear to have been the one they were in at any moment.

Expedition Leader: What was their general behavior and what were their final actions like…?

Lieutenant: They appear to have spent most of their waking lives immersed in petty bullshit. They disagreed with one another on a regular basis and over little and unsolvable things, making it impossible for them to agree on the bigger things — the ones might have prevented their extinction.

They failed to learn from the past. They regularly looked beyond the obvious warning signs of danger, in favor of momentary relief. They liked shortcuts. They were relentlessly addicted to harmful forms of energy, easy credit, and cheap consumer goods.

They spent too much time focused on simple amusement, didn’t take the concept of work seriously enough, and had an inherent tendency to take more than they were willing to give.

Expedition Leader: Cool. Thanks for the hard work. I’ll arrange for a cleanup crew and see if we can get the remaining reefs, rain forests, rivers, and animal population brought back to good health and a complete comeback now that the humans are gone.

Lieutenant: Sir, would you like for me to archive their historical records…?

Expedition Leader: No, burn them. Our children should never know of such a species.

Lieutenant: Excellent point, Sir.

Expedition Leader: Oh, and euthanize all the monkeys and apes, just in case.

Lieutenant: Of course, Sir, right away.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake
31 miles
1,400’ climbing
14.4 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Babylons Burning, by The Ruts

We All Play The Lottery…

I’m about to finish the book, The Second Chance Club, by Jason Hardy. The book is an inside look at the New Orleans probation system, seen through the eyes of a former probation officer, the author himself.

It’s a sobering look at what happens to young men in the inner-city when they find themselves out of work, pressed for money, and have too much time on their hands. As a point of clarification, the offenders Hardy covers in the book were all born into the circumstances that absorbed them. Most are the children of drug attics and dealers and never had a shot at a better life. A few were born already addicted. They were given losing tickets in the lottery of birth.

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When I began the book a couple of weeks ago, I was self-employed, earning a respectable living, had more of everything than I need, and still had enough free time to enjoy life‘s rich pageant. By comparison to the offenders Hardy describes in his book, it seemed I’d won the lottery of life. Those who know me hear me say that frequently.

Now, just three-quarters of the way through the 260 page book, I have no source of income, too much time on my hands, and no immediate hope of getting out of this situation. Suddenly, I have more in common with the offenders in Hardy’s book than I could’ve imagined when I began it just a couple weeks ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting at the edge of my seat entertaining how I might make a living selling drugs or committing petty burglaries. My current plight though, offers me a context into this book about criminal life that wasn’t there on page-1. Suddenly, it’s all more relatable.

It’s interesting to think about — that whole lottery of birth thing. I think most people never give that much consideration — that our ZIP Codes at birth are our lottery numbers. Growing up, my older brother took time to help me understand how fortunate we were compared to kids in other parts of the world and other parts of the country. The older I get, the more I think Lottery Of Birth should be a class taught in early elementary school — so we all might have a better understanding from an early age.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Supplemental — no stats.

Neither Heaven Nor Hell…

Eternal is a ring — it has no beginning and no end. It’s a cycle, everlasting.

Never-ending is a line. It has a beginning, but extends without ever stopping.

Pointing out the difference between eternal and never-ending may seem like a small point, but when people talk to me about the prospect of an eternal hell, I’m quick to remind them the term they’re looking for is never-ending, not eternal. It often flusters them. I explain to them that hell has to have a day-one. I envision it something like this…
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You show up, get in line, and get your ID number, then there’s probably a lot of waiting around. Eventually some unfriendly being or beings begin to have their way with you and it never ends.

Apparently that’s God’s way of teaching you a lesson you’ll never be capable of learning, in an environment where you’ll never be able to apply it.
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Wait, what…? How could a god who created a human mind capable of logic wrap things up for us with a scenario that rejects it…? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, the idea of heaven defies logic also.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I’ve been thinking about them both lately — because so many people keep bringing them up. Honestly, I might be as fearful of heaven as I would be of hell, depending on what memories we’d take with us as contrast for our new surroundings and our new chores.

By the way, it’s not the Covid-19 I’m worried about. My age and fitness level would likely get me through it. My concern is growing though, of a global collapse. Although I still see that scenario as very unlikely, this is our Cuban missile crisis and it’s going to last much longer than 13 days.

Facing uncertain and possibly catastrophic times, I’ve been trying to get my moral bearings straight and my principles lined up. I’m focusing on how I should live in these coming weeks and months, should I not make beyond 2020. I’m not doing this out of a fear of hell or a desire to enter heaven. I’m doing it because it’s the right way to be, but it always has been.

If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that I’m a much better person than I’ve given myself credit for. I say that based on my observations of all the people and all the nonsense which has taken place around me in an increasingly complex world.
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Being raised in a society inherent with religious fright as the foundation of most moral learning, has done little to make me feel good about myself. Set against the backdrop of the end of daze, I think I’m in pretty good field position.

In just a few short years we’ve gone from Francis Fukuyama‘s The End Of History to Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny. Heaven and hell not withstanding, I’m going to steer my current course and continue to be me — it’s all I know.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
203 miles
8,600’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
11,500 calories
13 hours 21 minutes seat time
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Eurogliders. Enjoy…

On To The Next..

In this time of Passover, Easter, and in the midst what might be the most critical moment in modern human history, God has been on my mind a lot of this week. And yes, I believe in God, though I make no attempt to characterize or define him, her, or it. I just feel there’s something bigger than humankind.

Rarely an hour passes that I don’t think about purpose and meaning. Those thoughts always lead me to God.

God, to me, is wonder and that’s where I feel all discussions should end. The question of whether or not God exists does little for me. The more important question is where does he take us from here…? A lot of people, myself included, might be discovering that in the coming weeks and months, and in numbers we haven’t seen in a long time.

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I’ve never believed this is the only life we get, but like my feelings of God, I can only go on a hunch. My hunch is that we carry on. Where we land when we leave this world, I have no idea. Perhaps another body, another realm, into a different simulation, an alternate universe, or a new upload — I’ve got no clue.

I don’t believe in Heaven nor Hell, just continuation. I would simply hope that where and how we continue beyond this life is precisely correlated with how we lived here — graded on a curve of course. Nobody can predict how things will unfold in the coming weeks and months, but I’m somewhat at peace with it all — at peace with what might be next for me Apprehensive, but at peace.
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In recent years I’ve learned the value of the volunteering. I’ve discovered great meaning in putting the needs of others ahead of my own, animals included. I’ve felt the joy in giving my last dollar to a friend in need. I’ve made friends with the local homeless, and make sure to remember their names. I took in a kitty who was left on my driveway and told her she’s a Cohen now too — and I’ve treated her accordingly.

I’ve learned that argument is almost always fruitless and that insults are a sign of weakness. I’ve learned that there actually is a wrong time to make a joke. I’ve learned to listen, to put myself in the shoes of others, and to say I love you to everything that moves and many things that don’t. In this social media era, I’ve learned that you can call somebody ‘friend’ having never met them.
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I’ve often joked that in Mad Max world, I like my odds. I’m not sure I really believe that now, but in the next world, I think I’ll do okay — I hope so anyway.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Vasudeva
30 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Black Coffee, by Humble Pie

No Medicine For The Faithful….

Most reading this will be stricken with its superficiality and are likely to file it under “first-world problems“ should they read it all the way through. I’m asking everyone to read this please, and do so with an open mind. Even if this doesn’t apply to you, it’s impacting somebody close to you — a family member, coworker, or neighbor.
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Millions of people woke up today unable to go to the gym and exercise. On the surface that seems the epitome of first-world problems. In truth, missing a workout or even a few is not a big deal. However, we’re not talking about people missing one or two workouts. We’re talking about fitness centers and gyms around the country closed down indefinitely, for weeks and probably for months.

Why is this significant…?

Because for many, it’s not about having tight buns, bulging biceps, six-pack abs, or doing sinister justice to that little black dress. For millions of people, exercise is medicine, and for some it’s their only medicine. For many, it works far better than the pills that doctors prescribe them.

Exercise helps cope with the stresses of everyday life

Exercise helps in confronting depression, head-on

Exercise is a great way to deal with anxiety

Exercise is an alternative to drugs and alcohol — helping millions of people each day stay ahead of addiction

Exercise is used by many to thwart thoughts of self-harm and suicide

Exercise offers confidence to many who would not know it any other way

For many, and I fall into this category, exercise is about all of the above and more.

This is worth repeating — you probably know more than a few people who exercise for some or all of the reasons mentioned above. Their ability to do so, as they are accustomed to doing it, has been taken from them with no notice. For people who use exercise to combat depression and other maladies, this is tantamount to the pharmacy turning the off the lights and locking the doors — right as the person in need is driving up.
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Many people who’ve lost access to the gym may have also lost their jobs with no notice. They may be in financial difficulties due to our current situation. They may feel weight of the world pushing them down harder than ever, during a time when they need the relief and the benefits of exercise more than ever. Their medicine has been taken from them.

For the people in your life who’ve lost that wonderful coping mechanism, the gym, they will need to be resourceful. Please encourage them and be patient with them. Be supportive if they complain about missing their workouts, don’t reply by calling it a “first-world problem“. Don’t complain if they do push-ups every 15 minutes, or run around the block 35 times a day. They may be medicating the best way they can, at a time when they may need that medicine more than ever.

Starting or tomorrow I’ll be doing a YouTube video of one exercise per day that can be done with minimal equipment which some people might have at home, or with no equipment whatsoever.

Thank you,
Roy