Stay Put….

September 10 was World Suicide Awareness Day. People in great numbers posted and shared the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255 on their social media platforms. The Internet was flooded with pictures of Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Junior Seau, and a handful of celebrities who ended their lives too soon. Very often these deaths were the result of depression. They are the popular faces of suicide.

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On one hand, I get it. Relating suicide to famous people who struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and idiopathic sadness is a good reminder to all non-celebrities that those ailments don’t discriminate. A person can be worth millions of dollars, have fame and freedom, and still not want to finish the lives they are so fortunate to have. Also, the value of celebrity recognition helps spread the idea of World Suicide Awareness Day further and faster.

On the flip-side though, many people who will read this have friends, associates, and family members who have taken their own lives. That in itself is a heavy thought. What’s a heavier thought though, is that other people reading this will have friends, associates, and family members who will someday take their own lives, but who haven’t yet — and who may be internalizing their reasons for doing so.

With that in mind, it’s my opinion that the face of suicide awareness shouldn’t be celebrities so much, as they should be everyone that we make eye contact with in a day’s time. Again, that’s just my opinion.

 

It’s also my opinion that everyone who experiences suicidal feelings, whether they are rare, occasional, or frequent, should consider becoming be more vocal with them — to discuss them with friends and/or mental health professionals.  If friends or professionals so trustworthy can’t be found, they can turn to The Suicide Awareness Lifeline at 800.273.8255. If friends are so gracious as to listen, I would encourage them to do so without judgment. Everyone should be willing to listen without judgment.

Many people live with suicidal thoughts — probably many more than someone reading this might realize. Again, some people experience suicidal thoughts on rare occasions, while others may experience them occasionally, and with others still, they might be frequent. Some, like me, live with them daily.

Those who do experience these feelings, too often hold them in. We hold them in for fear of being judged, cast out, or worse. Some, myself included, fear that being too vocal about such feelings might influence our ability to earn a living. I accept that some people who read this and also do business with me, may choose not to going forward. As I write this, I feel it’s more important to speak what’s on my mind tonight, regardless of how people might judge me or whether they choose to do business with me tomorrow.

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I have battled suicidal thoughts for most of my life. They have been completely intertwined with the depression, anxiety, and sadness that I have also battled. This surfaced with me first when I was in the 3rd grade. Think about that — I began entertaining and subsequently working through the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts as a 9-year old.

To see me on the surface, most people who know me socially or professionally, have no idea this takes place within my daily thoughts.

I know I’m not alone.

I am now in my late 50s. I can look back at my life, in part, as a series of successful and ongoing negotiations with myself on the importance and of staying put — if not for myself, then for anyone who finds value in my life, especially on the days when I can’t. I’m proud of that — proud of my success in 50 years of self-negotiations, and I’m still going strong.

Although I’ve written about this some in the past, I’ve done so apprehensively and have been guarded about it. I’m sharing these feelings today though, for two reasons:

1) So that anyone reading this who might experience similar feelings, will know they’re not alone — that roughly 4% of the adult population in this country has experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year. That’s 12-million people.

2) That those who don’t or haven’t experienced such feelings, might be more  aware of the 12-million or so people who do.   And to keep in mind we often look like anyone else on the surface.

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As for World Suicide Awareness Day, perhaps in the future we might rebrand it, making it less about celebrities and more about the people next-door or the people down the hall. We could call it…

The World Day Of Staying Put

The World Day Of Staying Put seems at least a little bit more casual, if not optimistic.

In addition to being about spreading suicide awareness, it could also be observed as a day of worldwide confession — a day to share one’s feelings without fear of judgment or any kind of reciprocity. It could be a day to celebrate those, like myself, who have successfully self-negotiated, time and time again, on behalf of staying put.

As any of us look around today in a room full of people, whether it’s a restaurant, an ice rink, or our living rooms, let the faces of suicide awareness not be those of celebrities. Let the faces of suicide awareness be everyone we make eye contact with.

Let’s each remember today as we move about our circles, that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of experiences we know little about, and often those experiences include turmoil, depression, sadness, and anxiety — even if the face and the demeanor are perky.

When we discuss and promote suicide awareness, let’s also strive to take into consideration those right beside us, and let’s make sure they feel they can discuss their feelings without fear of judgment or reciprocity — that may be just what they need in order to stay put.

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If you experience suicidal thoughts and don’t have anyone to speak with, please contact 800.273.8255. There are people there willing to listen, and without judgment.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
168 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
9,500 calories

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 is this from Big Country — Stuart Adamson was beautiful. Enjoy…

On Finding Simple Love…

When I feel love, I feel no pain. Perhaps that’s why I’m reaching for more these days, and finding it in places where I once didn’t — or never even thought to look for it.  And maybe it also has to do with life dishing out a little more pain these days.

I’m not talking about romantic love — that’s just novocaine for the mind. I’m talking about finding love in situations, in behaviors, and in aesthetics. I’m finding love these days in doings, in happenings, in observations, and existences. Oh, and in nature — there’s always love in nature.

Any of those are where quality love can be found — and that’s the key, quality love.  Identifying and feeling quality love these days, is one of the few things that makes me proud to be a human being.

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I’d be holding back if I didn’t confess that the weight of the world is draining me more lately. Yup, the same nonsense and bullshit that’s draining you is draining me. As we are forced to adapt to this increasing social complexity — the increasing complexity in all things human, positive and negative, I feel as though my spiritual senses are drying up.

My soul is drying…
My heart is drying…
My mind is drying…
My enthusiasm is drying…
My energy is drying…
My belief is drying…
My hope is drying…

Love though, can feed any of those, if not fill them.

So where do I find this kind of love…? Well, it has a smaller profile and is harder to locate than the hate and ignorance that stands so tall to dominate our social landscape, so I have to work at finding it.

Of course, love is in the eyes of my dog — it’s in the eyes of all dogs. But I find it just as much these days, in the eyes of a rabbit hiding nervously under the sagebrush when I walk in the mornings. In find love in the eyes of the neighbor’s cat, who stands on my car and looks my way when I bend down to grab the newspaper each morning from my driveway.  I find love in making eye contact with nearly any animal.

This might strike you as odd, but I find love in social media. Not in the nonsense and the bullshit that people exchange for the sake of simple amusement. But in those times when I am witness to human connections — when I see friends supporting friends or even acquaintances they scarcely know, and offer support during difficult times — I find that touching. What is touching if not a form of love…?

I can’t begin to tell you the love I feel when I see my mother’s expression as she sifts through pictures of her youth, of her grandchildren, and of all the places she’s been and things she’s done. I find love when I see my mother’s hands covered with age spots and I reflect on how many babies she helped deliver with those hands through the years.

Each week during my Rotary meeting, when a small golden can is passed around the room, and donations are placed in the can in support of local student enterprises that we sponsor, and as everyone drops a 5, a 10, or a 20 dollar bill into the can and makes a statement about why they’re doing so, that’s the kind of love that feeds me these days.

I might read a story or watch a documentary about a group of men who met as teens, formed a band, and shared big dreams together. And perhaps they found those dreams, but along the way they also found the agony and struggles that come with money and fame. They found fighting, addictions, breakups, and the jealousies that break friendships apart. And when I see those band members who met as children, now standing on stage looking regal under their gray hair,  putting their differences behind them, hugging, and making eye contact with one-another just before they strike a chord or beat a drum, I see the love of survival and of commitment.

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Last week, I held the wheelchair of a weakened friend as his wife helped him get in the passenger seat of their car. He is in the advanced stages of cancer and has declined further treatments. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more love than when I shook his hand as he put his seatbelt on before I closed his car door. I wondered, as I walked away, if there wasn’t a metaphor in me closing that door, because I may never see him again.

Those are the kinds of love that nourish me these days — they are the kind of love that my soul needs most in these chaotic times

As social complexity increases, and all its cascading consequences drain the humanity from me in the day-to-day, it’s the love that I witness in little things that nourishes me just enough to keep going and to keep growing.

This is what I think about when I ride. No shit, it really is… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 4
202 miles
8,400’ climbing
15.9 mph avg
12,000 calories

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 is this from That Petrol Emotion. Enjoy…

Left For Dead…

Vasudeva, my Specialized Allez Compact Elite, is my lightest and fastest bike. It’s also the bike with the most miles on it, which right now stands at roughly 12,000.

The only maintenance I have ever done to this bike is to keep the drivetrain (the gears and the chain) clean. I’ve never even washed it. It keeps on going.

Over the last year though, as I have added more bikes into the fold, I began riding it less and less. A few months ago, I actually began to cannibalize it in order to feed other bikes. The cassette (the rear gears) went to one bike. The wheel set (the rims) went to another. I even stole the saddle (the seat) for a different bike yet.

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Eventually, Vasudeva became just a frame with some cables and spiderwebs hanging off of it — in equal portion, and resting on my back patio. Once upon a time though, this was my soulmate bike. It had become a cast off and an afterthought.

A couple of days ago, I was watching one of those horrible Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials — you know, the ones that make you cry because you’re looking at a Chihuahua shivering in a cage or a pit-bull with ribs so exposed that it looks like a xylophone changed to a mailbox. Yeah, one of those commercials.

Shortly after I watched that commercial, I stepped out to my bicycle work-stand on my back patio to grab a screwdriver. I looked down to see Vasudeva in the same light that I saw the shivering Chihuahua and the emaciated pit-bull.

My heart broke for my once great, but more recently neglected bike.

I made the commitment then and there to rebuild it and get it on the road within a few days. I already had a compatible cassette, a compatible saddle, and I stole the wheel-set back from the bike I assigned it to.

If you’re wondering why this bike is special to me, it’s because years ago when I decided to leave the depths that only alcohol can lead one to, this was the bike I used to ride into the next phase of my life.

Yesterday I rode Vasudeva for the first time in two months. I went out early so the conditions were good — no wind, moderate fog, and with the air temperature in the mid 60s.

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I was apprehensive as I begin pedaling, because I was taking it on a fairly long ride and had not road tested it at all. Within a few miles though, I remembered why I love this bike so much — it’s fast. I spent a majority of my time on westbound Hwy 76 hovering just above the 20 mph marker, only to let that average drop slightly on a couple of hills.

When I got to Oceanside Harbor, my turnaround point, I had averaged 19+ mph. I had never done that before.  It seems that this pit-bull with the exposed ribs, had been sweetly nursed back to life.

As I always as I do at the harbor, I stopped, ate half a vegan cookie, took a pretty picture or two of my bike, and prepared for the turnaround ride. I was a little tired from the fast ride west, but my legs loosened up quickly when I began to head home.

Within a couple of miles after my turnaround, I realized I was still riding lights-out. The weather conditions hadn’t changed. When I arrived back at my starting point, Daniel’s Market in Bonsall, I took my phone out of my pouch as quickly as I could and clicked off my riding app.

I’ve been riding this route intermittently for over a decade, and I have never ridden it faster — on a bike that was in a scrapheap and left for dead just a few days earlier.

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I could live to be 1,000 years old and ride another 1,000,000 more miles, and I will never have a ride as exhilarating or memorable as yesterday’s.

But how I will truly remember this epic ride, won’t be for how fast I was or how sweet I felt when I clicked off my app. I will remember this ride for its association with all the pit-bulls chained to mailboxes and all the Chihuahuas shivering in cages, and my great ride will be an indelible reminder of the potential of rescuing the wretched.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Vasudeva
32 miles
1,000’ climbing
18.1 mph avg
2,000 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Ooh La La, by Ronnie Lane & Company

The UnFatted Calf…

Another week has past and it was another week that included another client arriving for her workout in tears because somebody had just casually commented about her body weight. It was clear to me immediately that her tears were born less of hurt and more of shame.

She was ashamed to have body fat.

And of course the punchline to the joke, which isn’t the least bit funny, is that she probably has less body fat than I do.  Soon we were both crying.

In case you’re not aware of this, having any noticeable body fat is something we should all be ashamed of. At least that’s how it seems.

If there’s one ideal I wish people could get beyond, it’s the idea that having any amount of body fat is a shameful thing.  At least I wish I could get beyond it. More so, that the idea of not having any body fat is a golden calf to be worshiped and danced around.

Most cultures, going back thousands of years, have done everything in their power to glorify those who possess low body fat. In doing so, that way of thinking has woven an unspoken disdain for even an average amount of body fat into our cultural DNA.  It’s not always unspoken though.

Whether we admit it or not, we dislike excess body fat — on everyone, our own selves included. Yet most everyone reading this, including the guy writing it, has more body fat than the Greek or Roman ideal. To have any more body fat than that, all these years later, is considered aesthetically unpleasing within our cultural norms.

Shame on every god damned one of us.

In my own case, I’ll confess that having visible excess fat on my belly, on my hips, and around my face, has presented me with the single biggest source of shame and anxiety I’ve ever known. Nothing has come close. I can’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t feel some amount of shame for how poorly I think I look in the eyes of others — due to my excess body fat. The only exception to this has been in those times when my focus has been on bodybuilding and my dieting was so strict and so severe that I was able to get to an aesthetically pleasing level of low body fat. Those times though never lasted, weren’t sustainable for the long-term, and getting there was the Siberia of eating.

Consider that — consider that I’m a guy who’s spent much of my adult life teaching exercise and the practice of making sound nutritional decisions. It’s my livelihood. Peripheral to that have been the countless hours I’ve spent in the weight room, running, trail hiking, and cycling.

I should be the leanest guy on earth, right…?

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But I’m not. I look okay in clothing, but I’ve declined a half-dozen invitations to pool parties this summer for a fear of taking my shirt off in front of others. I always joke when declining such invitations that I probably wouldn’t come close to people’s expectations of me in a swimsuit, and that it wouldn’t be a sight for kids.

Translation: I’m ashamed of my body, despite how hard I work at it. So ashamed, that I feel like a bad person just for my level of body fat.  So ashamed that it influences my social life.  So ashamed that it causes me anxiety.  So shamed that it causes me to hate myself.

So it’s never that far from my mind, that as a guy who bicycles between 170-190 miles every week, and who spends 6 hours or so in the weight room each week, who walks 2-miles every morning, and after all of that I hate what I look like. This keeps very cognizant of how others, who don’t work at it as hard as I do, might feel about their own bodies.

I often joke that the only people who wake up in the morning, run to the mirror scream….

Yeeeeeeeee Haw — look at me…!

are college football defensive backs and Navy pilots. The rest of us get to look in the mirror each day and wish we weren’t alive. Or at least that’s how I feel.

Some people might look at this and think I’m actually fishing for compliments. Others might admire that I’ve been so open about my inner feelings, while others still might call it brave. There might be a little truth in all of that. The main reason I’m sharing this though, is because I want most of the people reading it to know they are not alone.

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And the thing is, despite that I’ve thrown it all out there today and spilled my guts, I know I’ll still wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and hate what I see. And I will feel very bad for being that guy in the mirror.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
187 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,000 calories

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 is this from The Cardigans. Enjoy…

Best. Job. Ever.

Early in my adult life, a mentor said to me…

“The best job you’ll ever have is the one you just left or the one you’re going to next. Never is it the one you’re in right now…“

I can’t overstate how many times that has been true for so many people I have known. For me though, the best job of my life will always be my first job — sandwich maker and deli clerk.

It was the first weekend after I turned 15 years old — the legal age to work in Colorado at the time. My father directed me to put on a nice shirt, a nice pair of pants, tuck in the shirt, and to ride my bike up to the Bagel Deli, roughly a 1-1/2 miles up the street. My bike, was actually hand-me-down from my brother — a green Columbia 5-speed touring bike.

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Paul Weiner, the Bagel’s owner, would be waiting for me, My dad explained. My father, having dined there earlier that morning, had prearranged the meeting with Mr. Weiner after seeing a Help Wanted sign in the window. I would be applying for a part-time dishwasher position.

The Bagel was a regional institution — a place were Rocky Mountain Jews regularly met to eat good food, speak fractured Yiddish, and play the game of suburban oneupsmanship over lox and creamed herring on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

After completing my application and turning it in to Mr. Weiner, he gave me 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes he didn’t ask me a single question.  I’m not sure I even spoke except to say things like, uh-huh.  Mr. Weiner simply told me what he expected of me and as importantly, what he didn’t want to see from me. My first official offer of employment would be Mr. Weiner telling me I would be starting the following Tuesday at 3 PM.

Scared shitless, I got on my bike and rode home — this time, with my shirt untucked.

For the next 3 weeks I was the apprentice dishwasher. Paul referred to me as “apprentice” as often as he could, to employees and customers alike. He smirked every time he said the word apprentice in his thick Austrian accent. I must have done a fair job too, because after 3 weeks I was promoted to sandwich maker and counter clerk.

I got to use the meat slicers.

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The other deli clerk‘s were much older than me. Rick Cornblatt, the deli manager, was in his mid-20s with a wife and a small child. Craig Walker was in his late 30s, and when he wasn’t slinging corned beef, he was a bassoon player for the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

I was just 15 years old, and I got to use a meat slicer and hang out with these guys. Not only that, but Mr. Weiner had a very liberal employee benefits program — we could eat as much as we wanted to during our shifts, so long as nothing went home with us at night. Having already discovered the weight room at age 15, all the protein I could eat for 5 hours a night would surely be the down payment for my ever-growing guns.

The Bagel Deli was built around its regulars. Of course strangers and first-timers came in every day, but within a month of working there, I knew who all the regulars were, and they paid the rent. The regulars were like a continually visiting Board of Directors, checking in on me and the others, and making sure we were doing a good job. If  we weren’t doing a good job, they would tell us about it.

The most notable regular though, was legendary concert promoter Barry Fey. Fey, who I would go on to work for in a separate incarnation of my young adult life, rarely just walked in. He often called ahead requesting preferential treatment for the guests he’d bring. Fey often brought the managers of bands who were passing through town such as the Rolling Stones, the Jefferson Starship, and even Bob Dylan’s manager. On rare occasions Fey would bring musicians such as Ian McLagan, Craig Chacuico, and John Sebastian to name a few. I made sandwiches for all of them.

Another deli clerk and coworker was Paul Gordon, a washed-up talk radio host who was the first openly gay man I ever met. We called Paul Gordon “PG” so not to get confused with Paul the owner of the deli.

One evening, while working alongside PG and while slicing roast beef, I cut the tips off of the index and middle fingers of my right hand. I never felt a thing, but I quit slicing when I felt the blade grinding into the bones of those 2 fingers.

I hadn’t been using the finger guard.

PG packed my fingers in a cup of ice and drove me to the emergency room. Stopped at an intersection enroute to the hospital, and along side an older couple in a long Buick, I pulled my fingertips from the cup of ice and showed the couple in the Buick the flow of blood pouring pouring from my fingertips. I don’t think they were impressed. The emergency room doctor took a skin graft from the side of my hand, and the 2 fingertips were stitched and sealed closed. I returned to work within several days.

Working at the Bagel Deli was, hands-down, the best job of my life. There’s hardly been a day go by that I haven’t reflected on it with fond memories and wishes that I  still worked there. Rick Cornblatt, who was my first boss, never left. It’s the only job he ever had. Craig Walker, the other full-time clerk and bassoon player, continued to work there until he was in his 60s.

I have no negative memories of that job, none.

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Of my favorite memories at the Bagel, and the one I reflect on most, is of entering the walk-in refrigerator on hot summer days, cutting open 5-gallon buckets of dill pickles, and eating 3 or 4 of them at a time.  As the customers would say, delish…!

Of course the job I have now is amazing. I work in bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog on the way into my studio each day, and I get to enjoy conversations with interesting people all day long. If a genie showed up tomorrow though, and gave me a chance to start over again at age 15 and make a career of working at the deli, I’m sure I’d think twice about it.

I worked at the Bagel on and off for nearly 3 years. In the 40 years since I clocked out for the final time, I’m not sure a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that job and wished I was still there.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
184 miles
7,800’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
11,000 calories

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 is this from Army Navy. Enjoy…

Pollyanna Crash…

Pollyanna Crash…

All is not lost, or so they say. More recently though, I’ve been feeling some of my values — those beliefs and character traits that define me, slipping away. Most notably, my sense of humor and my relentless optimism.

Despite what inner turmoil I have lived with, and there’s been a heap, I’ve always met it head on with humor and optimism. Combined, the two make great weapons when confronting adversity. I think I’ve been successful at this, if not masterful.

With all that’s been taking place in the world, as our national mood has soured, as society has bubbled at the surface with a greater intensity, and as the behaviors of many who I’ve believed in have disappointed me more with each passing meme, insult, or comment thread, I’m noticing my sense of humor and my optimism are fading.

I find it harder to incorporate humor into conversations these days, and less receptive to humor when it’s offered to me. It’s as though I now see humor as an illicit drug — intriguing, but it feels cheap I feel I’d be better off without it. It’s not gone completely, it’s just that I feel guilty laughing or attempting to make others laugh while our nation is hurting.

I often wonder if we joked less and laughed less, and if we took what ails us more seriously while making a greater effort toward resolving it, maybe we could earn our way out of all of this. I sincerely wonder if there’s some truth in that.

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I remember how stunned I was to hear George W Bush speaking, just days after 9/11…

“Go to Disney World. Go shopping…”

It’s my own opinion that President Bush should’ve suggested we take a few weeks and refrain from Disney World or shopping, and to look inside ourselves with honest self-appraisal, look at each other with candor and attempt to communicate and unify.

Imagine after the attack on Pearl Harbor, if President Roosevelt had said go to Disney World and go shopping…

With regard to my optimism, for many years I’ve held close to a belief system sponsored by public intellectuals such as George Ellis, Robert Wright, Steven Pinker, Francis Fukuyama, and a handful of others, who’ve demonstrated in their research and their writings that the world, over time, has become and continues to be a more cooperative and better place.

It’s easy to be optimistic when my optimism is rooted in the hundreds of data citations contained within dozens of books written by these men. My optimism though, like my humor, its beginning to fade.

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Our national soul is crying, and we’re binge-watching mindless crap on Netflix with one screen, while we simultaneously argue with friends, cut off relationships over glib comments, and insult people we’ve never met on another screen.

I have begun to wonder who I would become if my optimism and humor disappeared from me completely. I try not to wonder about that, but a part of honest self-appraisal is just that, examining one’s self being honest about what is found.

I don’t think I’d like the me who lacks humor and optimism. I just be another grumpy old man, selfish and not contributing to the whole society. The God I believe in doesn’t want me living off the grid and shaking my fist at passersby. He wants me to engage.

I guess in all of this, the best thing I can do is to keep trying. However, seeing friend vs friend and politician vs politician behaving like children in the scope of ugly verbal exchanges, knocks the wind out of my Pollyanna disposition, every single time.

Excuse me now, while I place a slice of bologna and each of my shoes and get ready to begin my day.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Tang
26 miles
1,200’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
1,400 calories

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 is this from Dale Watson. Enjoy…

People Are The Crack…

In the 1980s, crack-cocaine propagated faster and with more disastrous results than any drug in history. In addition to the damage it would do to the lives, the families, and the businesses it disrupted, it became most used metaphor for addiction ever.

Not a day goes by that I don’t read something about our addiction to smartphones — always followed by a comparison to crack. Every time I touch my phone these days I feel guilty, if not ashamed because smartphones have been compared to crack so often.

Not so fast…

This image we have of addicts like me, in zombie-like postures, walking into stop signs, stepping into potholes, and otherwise ignoring the person standing right next to them because they are staring into their 7-inch vortex of intellectual displacement, is not where the story ends — not for me anyway. It’s easy to pass that kind of judgment, but look a little harder.

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This zombie might be paying a bill with my phone. I might be transferring money to my daughter’s bank account so she could go out to eat with her partner later that evening. I might be involved in a serious discussion with a friend on the other side of the world. I might be consulting with a client, either verbally or with text. I might be FaceTiming a friend in Mexico. I might be submitting an application for a small business loan. I might be reading Steven Pinker’s latest book or a relevant essay by William Buckley. Of course there are infinite positive things I might be doing with my smartphone while I’m in that zombie-like posture. And yes, there are infinite ridiculous things I might also be doing.

According to critical thinkers in technology, we are less than two generations away from smartphones, in much smaller sizes, actually being embedded under our skin. For more on that, I’ll suggest reading Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. Of course, when and if that happens, by definition we will no longer be Homo sapiens.

Back to zombies…

Even if I am a zombie and I stare at my phone for up to 8-hours a day — which I don’t, but for the sake of argument let’s imagine that I do, what keeps me coming back to it is what’s at the center of everyone’s smartphone experience — the people.

The people are the crack.

Whether it’s conversations, songs, videos, or classic books, the people are the crack.

I find it nothing less than miraculous that I can have a conversation about mindfulness with a friend in Australia, or a conversation about dogs with a friend in Virginia just moments apart. I’ve been helping another friend in Northern England, via my smartphone, with his fitness objectives for over a year now. And all of this I do from my zombie-like posture.

Back to crack…

Once you ingest a drug, you have to take the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all until it wears off. You smoke crack and you get high, but you also get the withdrawal and all the physical manifestations that come with it, none of which you can shed instantly.

But with smartphones, the people are the high, but we don’t have to take all the negative side effects that goes with it. We can scroll past them — we can put the phones down and be active, if only for a while. We don’t have to accept any of the negative consequences that come with looking down. Unlike the crack, we have the option of looking away or turning it off altogether.

Ultimately, smartphones are about interconnecting people in a way that is an outright miracle in our lifetime. It is relationships, above all things, that we are here for call me and this handheld technology can foster new relationships and enhance old ones.

I’m Not A Zombie…

I have little doubt that I check my phone as much as anyone this. I scroll as much, I post as much, read as much, and I hold on to this little electronic rectangle — scarcely larger than a bar of soap, as much as anyone I know. But I also know went to put it down, turn it off, walk away from it, or not bring it with me.

I am not a zombie.

I don’t use an app to track my screen time. I can’t tell you how many times per day I check notifications. My smartphone spends much of my day in my left hand, but it spends more time turned upside down on a table or otherwise out of reach.

When it is in my hand though, my phone is a lens, a mirror, and a reflector. It helps me see myself better and helps me see others more clearly — a good reminder of who I am and who I don’t wish to be.

Despite that my phone is often near me or in my left hand, I accomplish as much in the course of the day without using it has anyone I know. I ride my bike daily, I walk daily, I take my mother out daily, and I spend time with my dog and cat daily. I work in my yard, I volunteered my community, I spend time with friends, and I also work. Sometimes these things involve my smartphone and sometimes they don’t.

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There’s no guarantee of Monday, from a Sunday point of view. From the moment I get out of bed each morning until I put my head on my pillow at night, I attempted to live my life to the fullest. Whether my phone is beside me or not is irrelevant.

If I attempt to live my life to the fullest, in no way can I be classified as a zombie. Just a guy attempting to leave a digital record that I was here, that I mattered, and that those I’m connected with matter too.

Last night I went to dinner with my mother and a couple of friends.  At the end of the evening I commented that we were the only people in the restaurant that had never had our phones out. There’s a time and place for everything, or not.

I am not a zombie…!

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
195 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,100 calories
12 hours 45 minutes in the saddle

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 is this from The Billy Nayer Show (Corey McAbee). Enjoy…