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.
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.
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.
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
15.1 mph avg
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…
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.
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.
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
15.0 mph avg
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…
Like many, after a more than a decade, I still wonder how social media, Facebook in particular, should fit into my life. I still wonder whether it should be a part of my life at all. And in my quietest moments, I’m often concerned about the influence social media has had on my personality.
In 2006 my life and business were on autopilot. My days were evenly divided between working, exercising, and reading books on religion and philosophy. I didn’t even own a television and I wouldn’t have changed anything. Well into my 40s, for the first time in years, I felt like I was in a good place.
Around that time, I started a fitness blog, partially to bring credibility to my business, but also to speak out about an industry that had become so perverted that I no longer recognized it. One day a friend, a tech-industry insider, suggested that the up and coming social media platform, Facebook, would be a great vehicle to share my writing. She felt Facebook would become, in a short amount of time, the most used form of mass-communication the world had ever seen.
At the time, my internet use was limited to my fitness blog and email only. There was no Netflix streaming, YouTube was in its infancy, and my time on keyboard each day could be measured in minutes, not hours.
Subtly though, over a period of just a couple of years, I began spending more more time on my computer. At that time, I still used a desktop PC — this was 2007 or so. Checking my email, Facebook, and responding to comments on my blog usually took place at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day. If time and circumstance allowed, I might check these media in the middle of the day, but not often.
In 2008, I bought my first laptop. With Wi-Fi being more established in restaurants, coffee houses, and other public places, I began taking my computer with me just about everywhere, mostly so I could write if I was so inspired, and if had the time. I also checked email and Facebook messages more frequently.
In 2013, I got my first smartphone, an iPhone 3. That’s when the quantity of wormholes, and the gravity inside them increased. The camera on my iPhone was better than the point-and-shoot camera I took with me on my hikes. I developed an affinity for smartphone photography. As better apps and filters were being developed to support my photo habit, more platforms manifest to share those pictures, such as Hipstamatic and later Instagram. I began a seamless progression onto the social media road that I still walk today.
Facebook though, was a superior outlet because I could share both my writing as well as my photographs. Facebook was growing fast though and changing form from week to week. The increasing network of warmholes and tunnels were so easily drawn into, that at least a part of my psyche began to reside there, even when I was away from my phone or computer.
Viscerally, I was becoming aware of the negative impact this could have on my time, but I was also becoming concerned about any impact it might have on my personality. I regularly questioned whether this increase of screen time was healthy, though I never answered those questions. This might be analogous to someone enjoying a glass of wine with dinner each evening, but on the inside, knowing the 2nd and 3rd glasses were not as easily justified.
My pattern has been pretty consistent for the last 4 or 5 years — I take a lot of pictures, I write, and I share. Seems harmless, and a good creative outlet, yes…?
“If you’re going to the prom, you best be prepared to dance with them who brung ya…” Bum Phillips
The world has changed a great deal in the last 13 or 14 years since Facebook and other social media platforms took off. What has changed the most, is the profound impact social media has had on journalism, institutions, as well the unscrupulous companies pitching their wares while simultaneously mining for personal data. It’s a web of agenda and manipulation the likes of which the world has never seen — one I willingly step into every day.
What began as a platform for social interconnectivity, not only gave everyone a vehicle for their own voice, but each vehicle came with its own road. Within a few years, people and institutions were speeding, changing lanes without looking, changing roads without looking, doing countless U-turns, and constantly changing directions — and there were few rules and even less enforcement. Using social media became a lot like driving in Athens — one is best served to have diligence, patience, a good eye for deception, and a backup plan.
What makes any technology worthwhile is when it’s used for its highest purpose and with the best of intentions. I have no problem saying that most people and most agencies don’t do this with Facebook and other social media platforms. People and institutions, for the most part, behave like children on an unsupervised playground.
I can say with honesty that Facebook and other platforms have enhanced my life in ways I would have never imagined back in 2006. Many aspects of my life have improved due to the connections I’ve made and the information that’s been shared among and between those connections. I’m grateful all of this happened in my lifetime.
Facebook is a generic term to me. It’s not a company, it’s an idea that would have happened anyway, and by any other name. Social media was going to happen no matter what. Facebook just got in line first. Facebook may be broken up by the government in time. It may sell itself into pieces — of its own accord. It may even go into bankrupt someday and come out with a completely different structure. It might even dissolve entirely, if pressed by a competitor which can offer more, although that’s not likely (see Microsoft).
If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, a vacuum would be formed so quickly, it would be replaced within weeks, or sooner. It isn’t Facebook the company which has changed the world so much. It’s been the ability to communicate so quickly and with so many people — social media is about the efficiency of being human. How we continue to use this technology is up to us, but it’s not going anywhere. I still plan to use it for purposes of good, how about you…?
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 James Reyne. Enjoy…
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.
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.
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
15.3 mph avg
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…
To ride a bike, regardless of what I’m looking at or what I might be thinking , is to be continually surveying roadside debris. There is always roadside debris.
There are three types of debris I see regularly…
The first kind of debris is small and looks like it belongs there. I can’t ride 50-yards without seeing broken glass, small nuts and bolts, fast food wrappers, dead snakes and birds, and bits of broken taillight. Not that any of this should be there, but it just makes sense that they are. At worst, small debris like this might puncture a tire. These are no big deal.
The second kind of debris can make me scratch my head and wonder how it got there. Things like an embroidered woman’s blouse, the remains of a shattered Nintendo console, or two unused tickets to a Lake Elsinore Storm game — which I actually saw a few days ago. This type of debris may or may not be less hazardous, but always more conspicuous and sometimes makes me chuckle.
The third kind if debris is larger, more or less fits in, can be easy to ride around, but I also know is capable of killing me — should I be in its path when it flies off a passing vehicle and lands roadside. This kind of debris includes large pieces of car or truck tire, links of chain, large pelican hooks, small appliances, and other large or heavy unsecured objects that fly off of passing vehicles — all of which I see regularly. I’ve seen ironing boards and window sized air-conditioning units resting comfortably in the bike lane — but they weren’t born there. They flew there.
That’s what gets me about that last kind of debris — that I know before it lands on the side of the road, it’s airborne. When I stop to think about the trajectory that carries objects like this from vehicle to roadside, I cringe. I’m not sure there’s a helmet strong enough to protect my head from a flying ironing board or a 10-pound pelican hook.
It’s not my intention to send negative energy out there, but the purpose of this blog is to share what’s on my mind when I ride. The possibility of being struck by an object like that and killed is never far from my mind. Hopefully though, the window sized air-conditioning unit stays on my mind, but never becomes a part of it. Yeah, here’s to that.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Footnote: Just a few hours after writing this I learned that a local resident, a woman who was well-known in the real estate community, the equestrian community, and the community at-large here in Fallbrook was killed — riding her horse.
I’ve been chewing on that a lot for the last 72-hours. Some people, and I am one of them, have a hard time sitting still. We need to be active and often being active means putting ourselves at risk. Some activities are associated with more risk than others. Our friends and family don’t always understand why we take these risks. For people like me, it’s because the reward (emotional/psychological benefit) outweighs the risk (injury or even death).
Examples of this might include skiing, surfing, riding motorcycles, riding bicycles, riding horses, diving off of cliffs, flying airplanes, jumping out of airplanes, and the list goes on. I have participated in all of these.
Others are adverse to risk — they go to great lengths in avoiding it. They might be physically active, but choose activities that don’t have the potential for injury or death — or even messy hair or smudged make up. Others still, avoid activity altogether, in favor of self-preservation. Their lack of activity is largely motivated by many fears.
There is no right or wrong with any of these. Each marches to the beat of his or her own drummer, and is influenced only by the ZIP Code they are born into and by the fingerprints of those they choose to associate with through the course of their lives.
I know each day when I get on my bike there is a risk that goes with that choice. On one hand, there is the methadone of motion that soothes my chaotic mind. On the other, are the six markers I pass by in the course of a week, each honoring cyclists who have been struck by cars and killed. I accept that risk in favor of the reward, and I work very hard to minimize that risk. Most every cyclist I know does the same.
Since learning how our local resident was killed riding her horse last week, virtually everyone I’ve spoken with about it said this or something similar…
At least she died doing what she loved.
This is a thought I carry with me every day of my life — in hope that those who love me never have to speak it about me.
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 Bob Mould. Enjoy…!
If those two words, potato swimsuit, seem like they don’t belong together, I agree. They showed up this morning though, on the note app I use on my phone to keep ideas for the next day’s writings.
At the point in each ride, when I stop to take a pretty picture of my bike, I dictate some quick notes into my phone — ideas in bullet-point form of what I had been thinking about while riding up to that point. I might also make a few notes at the end of my ride.
The following morning, I reflect on those notes and assemble my writing(s) of the day, based on things I was thinking about while riding the day before.
Yesterday, after taking one of the pictures below, I dictated some notes into my telephone — maybe a paragraph or so, and a few bullet points. In truth, I have no memory whatsoever of what those thoughts were about yesterday.
When I checked my app this morning, the only note in my phone read as follows…
The thing is this — I’m reasonably certain I didn’t speak the words potato or swimsuit into my phone, and if I did, it certainly wasn’t an exclusive deal. Technology though, being what it is, those are the words I was left with to construct an essay from.
I racked my brain in an attempt to make sense of potato swimsuit. Part of me wondered if one of those words was correct and the other was a mistranslation. Even so, I dictated at least a half-dozen sentences. I even entertained for a moment that maybe I did speak the words potato swimsuit into my phone, and I attempted to remember why.
Coming to no conclusion, I stepped away from it for a while. I edited some pictures, just went for a walk, and returned home to take a short nap — couldn’t fall asleep. I’ve been contemplating those two words since — potato swimsuit. Nothing.
Someday, hopefully not for a while, I will die. It’s my hope that when I pass, the first words my maker speaks to me after shaking my hand and showing me to my dorm, will be a detailed explanation of why the hell potato swimsuit showed up in my notes this morning, rather than the ideas I intended to write about.
I had hoped to write something deep, philosophical, or meaningful this morning. That is always my intention on Sundays.
I might have been thinking about why Epictetus and Seneca left veganism. I might have been thinking about corruption with the International Olympic Committee. It’s possible I was wondering if dogs contemplate what we are thinking. I dunno.
No matter how much I twist them, turn them, or rearrange them though, potato swimsuit adds up to none of that. It could’ve been great — a homerun essay, but it is this — potato swimsuit.
Hopefully, I’ll be taking better notes in the week to come. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures from my walks and from my rides from this week past.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers..
Bikes ridden: 4
Bikes purchased: 1
15.1 mph avg
11:29 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 Doc Neeson and The Angels. Enjoy…!
Wait, what…? Yeah, Fonzie.
Despite the influence that all these prophets would have at different times in my life, there’s one that has contributed to my day-to-day more than the others.
In 1974 I was in middle school. That was the year that Happy Days premiered on ABC.
As an awkward pre-adolescent, with few friends, a father that traveled, and a mother that worked swing shift, much of my life was spent in my own little world. The thing about living in my own little world was this; I didn’t get out much except to be picked on, beat up, or completely ignored by my contemporaries, which can hurt just as much as a beating at the bus stop.
Up to that point my only savior was The Six-Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. Looking up to and emulating Steve Austin though, came with its own set of baggage. For example, Austin wore leisure suits, the trend in men’s fashion at the time. To be more like him, since I lacked bionic parts, I wore leisure suits to middle school thinking I would be cool. Let the bus stop beatings begin. The leisure suits didn’t last long.
Enter Arthur Herbert Fonzerelli.
I received my first leather jacket as a Hanukkah gift the same winter that Happy Days began its 2nd season. In the first season, you may remember, Fonzie wore a cloth jacket. He still made it look cool, but it wasn’t leather. His leather jacket though, in the 2nd season, put him on the top rung on the ladder of cool. My new leather jacket was my first evolutionary step in the long process of becoming cool — or cooler than a guy wearing a leisure suit in the 8th grade.
The evolution would be slow.
Something I recognized from the get-go though, was that when I wore my leather jacket to school, people treated me differently — better. I might not have been the coolest guy in school, not by any stretch, but there was something about that jacket that gave me a currency which provided entrée into places, situations, and with people I had not previously had access.
This was also around the time I began lifting weights. And though it would take years for physique to fully develop, my biceps grew almost immediately. This served me well, because when the summer came and the leather jacket became too hot, having well formed arms underneath those sleeves was another aspect of cool.
I would not add another arrow into my quiver of cool for nearly a decade. That’s when I joined the United States Coast Guard. Being in the military is one of those things can seem very cool to some people and not cool at all to others. But there’s something different about the Coast Guard. The mission of the Coast Guard being so unique, gives it a cool that the other armed forces don’t experience.
Around this time, my physique did start to develop beyond just my biceps, so I had the fact that I was in the Coast Guard, I was fairly well-built, and that I could make a Coast Guard uniform look as cool as a leather jacket going for me. After all, a good physique is what made those leisure suits work for Steve Austin.
Buy my estimation at this point, I was about 50% up the ladder of cool.
However, my cool would flatline for the next decade or so, as it should have. This was the period when I got married, began working adult jobs, and started a family. But there was this one thing…
A fortunate twist of fate was that after I left the Coast Guard, I was hired as a security guard for America West Airlines in Phoenix. America West was just starting out and wanted their security guards to be corporate employees, not outsourced. From that position, it didn’t take me long to work my way into an analyst position in the pilot planning department. This was in the late 1980s, when working for an airline made you cool by default. I continued up the ladder.
Though my career path in aviation wouldn’t last long, having the title of Scheduling Analyst and the pay that came with it gave me confidence in the working world. My recreational bodybuilding gave me confidence in everything else.
Confidence = cool.
Something significant happened as a result of this increased confidence — I began to share my sense of humor more. My father and brother cultivated a good sense of humor in me while I was growing up, but I didn’t share it too often for my lack of confidence. As I began to let it out though, people talked to me more and let me in a little closer. As cool as having an airplane job, big biceps, and broad shoulders might have made me, being funny took me up a couple of more rungs.
Even cool people struggle, and by the time I was in my 40s, I was divorced, somewhat broken, but not altogether defeated. Time to grow my hair. Straight up, guys with long hair may or may not be cool, but when guys have muscle and long hair, it’s a slam-dunk. Conan, Tarzan, and Chicago Bears defensive tackle, Steve McMichael were all cool.
And since my hair was long and I had a decent physique, this was a time I could get away with wearing a lot of bracelets, torn pink tank-tops, and going barefoot everywhere I went.
What..? Is that the top of the latter I’m reaching for…?
It was roughly 2006 when the social media began to unfold. It was important to me, from the beginning, to stay unique. Though I have participated in my share of sophomoric hijinks in social media, for the most part the things that I have shared have been as unique and original I could have them be. Few things are more cool than being original and unique.
And all of this brings me to riding a bike — bikes actually, since I currently own six. My biking is something that I do daily, and in all conditions — rain, shine, or tonsillitis. And though I don’t ride expensive bikes, my bikes are cool, mostly because I keep them clean and decorate them with colorful water bottles. When I stop at the ocean, next to a pasture, or in front of a vineyard to take pictures of my bikes, people often complement them, and very often those complements include the word cool.
If it sounds lofty, arrogant, or like I’m high on my own grandeur to refer to myself as cool, forgive me. But I do think I’m pretty cool and that’s no accident. My coolness has been by design and has served me well.
I’m not an Ivy League scholar, I can’t do math in my head, I don’t have much money, and I don’t speak Portuguese. Despite these, I’m regularly granted access to people, places, and situations that a guy in a leisure suit might never find.
People give me the time of day because they perceive me as being cool, and whether you realize it or not, cool is a form of currency. At times it can be as valuable as intelligence, scholarly achievements, occupational status, and many of the things we use to value human worth. Cool has gotten me into places that a PhD never would.
Make no mistake, cool is not who I am. Cool is how I portray myself. Cool is a shell, no different than a Porsche 356, an Armani suit, or shiny white teeth veneers. Cool gets me through the door, but what keeps me there is appreciating that I ever got there at all. And I hope I do that better than anything else — to show appreciation that I’ve been accepted into nearly every room, every situation, and with every person I have ever connected.
Since I put on that first leather jacket towards the end of my 8th grade year, I have recognized the power of cool. And I owe all of this to Arthur Fonzerelli.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 3
16.6 mph avg
Night rides: 3, for 75 miles
9 hours 4 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 Jackson Browne. Enjoy…!
At some point during every ride, I find myself contemplating the trials, tribulations, and the tragedies of others. Not out of amusement, but out of humility. Mostly, those in my periphery — my friends, family, and acquaintances as well as those I cross paths with via social media.
As I stand out of my saddle and pedal up steep grades or as I glide swiftly down the other sides hoping to pass the cars ahead of me, I chew on the adversity of others much more than I think about my own. In comparison, I often think, I don’t even know what adversity is. This exercise within my exercise, is an excellent daily reminder of how blessed my life is.
More so, it’s a grounding reminder that many I know have interruptions in their own blessings, and that sometimes those interruptions are severe. I love them and I always pray for them.
It’s been 6 years since Gretchen died. She was a friend, in her late 40s, who I often hiked with. One afternoon while walking across the floor of a restaurant on her way from her table to the restroom, she had a heart attack. The EMTs revived her, but she passed away the next morning. Only minutes before, she had texted another friend that she was having one of the best days of her life.
There hasn’t been a week go by in the six years since, that I have not thought about that, at least a little bit.
Several years later, the 13-year-old daughter of another friend passed away suddenly, on her way to family outing with her parents and two brothers. That loss has crossed my mind at least a few times a day, every day sense.
Other adversities start off bleak, but fare a little better, and some ultimately leave the realm of adversity as a description.
Several years ago a friend in Colorado allowed a tree to get between she and one of the better downhill runs she was having that day. She spent several weeks in the hospital, suffered multiple broken bones, a short term head injury, and some permanent scarring on the right side of her face. The scarring is minimal, she is skiing again regularly, and she has since finished college, despite the accident.
She refers to the scars on her face as “The signature of good fortune“.
Because I ride past his house daily, I think of my friend Dave. He was a client who was complaining about shoulder problems about a year ago. He was concerned that our workouts were causing a constant pain he was having under his upper right arm.
After a doctors visit and a couple of referrals, it turned out not to be workout related at all. The shoulder pain was the result of inflamed lymph nodes, the result of of lung cancer that had spread. The initial diagnosis was stark, and he’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s responded to treatment much better than expected. I am hopeful he will deemed cancer-free in the next few months.
For the last few weeks, as I’ve been riding the hills, gliding the straightaways, and dodging broken glass and cars on the roads of North San Diego county, I’ve been thinking about a young man I’ve never met. His initials are G.E. His parents are social media friends who I’ve come to know and appreciate. G.E. was in an automobile accident recently.
One month since his accident, G.E. is now in a rehab facility with a fantastic staff, is making great progress, and recovering from his injuries. G.E.’s current challenges include struggling with balance, a desire to leave his room and wonder, and short-term memory loss. I have a feeling that G.E. is going to make a great recovery. His wonderful parents are committed to helping him overcome the difficulties that lay ahead.
These are just a few examples of the many adversities that have touched me, but have clearly touched those connected to them far more significantly. With each passing year though, there are one or two more. At some point, there might be so many that I’ll be able to think of little else.
The joke in my family is this…
I don’t have to get an annual physical. I just get my blood work done in the emergency room each year when I’m there.
Though I do land in the emergency room every so-often, I’ve been quite fortunate that nothing which has landed me there has caused me too much difficulty. Oh, there have been setbacks, but nothing that approaches the term adversity.
Maybe it’s because I ride by markers each day of my life that display where other cyclists have been struck by cars. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen more than a handful of gurneys being loaded into ambulances driving away from the remains of mangled motorcycles, bikes, and cars. Most likely though, it’s because I know the risks involved with daily cycling, that I think about the adversity of others and the impact it has had on their families and friends.
As much as anything, these daily thoughts remind me of just how good my life is, and how I should strive to protect and appreciate it.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Bike: Cortez The Killer
16.4 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: He’s Misstra Know It All
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 Stevie Wonder. Enjoy…!
Yesterday was the shortest ride I’ve had in a while — just a hair over 20-miles. I intended to ride between 24-27. It was cold, rainy, and a bit windy. About 10-miles out, I found myself riding in some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever ridden through. Despite being appropriately dressed and biked, I was getting soaked, chilled, and frustrated. I made the decision to cut it short and head home.
This is when I started thinking about freewill — yet again.
I think about free will often, especially when I’m on my bike. I think this is because riding a bike, above all things, is a continual decision making process…
– How I should position myself within the lanes.
– What road obstacles to avoid.
– Which direction I want to look to check on traffic.
– Which gear to be in.
– Which scenery to look at.
– Is that a bee on my knee, or a piece of gravel…?
When I leave my house to ride, I always know whether I’m going to go north or south, and I have a rough idea of how many miles I’ll ride that day. However, as I pull out of my driveway, other than going left or right, I don’t know for certain the precise route I’m going to ride.
I have roughly a half-dozen courses that I ride regularly, and within those courses, there’s probably 20 or more variations of each. Every ride is unique to itself, even if only slightly from the previous one.
As I navigate my chosen course each day, and as I make last-minute decisions to go left or go right, up or down, or of where to stop and take a pretty picture and of what, I think about freewill.
Contemporary physics suggests that there is no freewill. Mathematics, apparently, doesn’t provide for it. Sean Carrol, Brian Greene, and Jana Levin among others, suggest that freewill is just an illusion. For his part, Greene says we should enjoy the “imaginary control” we believe we have, but viscerally not get caught up in it.
I have my doubts about this.
At least a few times on every ride, I’m forced into a decision to go left, to go right or to choose a prong on a fork taking me in entirely different directions, knowing that I can’t ride on two prongs at once.
In one instance, there is a fork that divides Live Oak Road from Reche Road here in Fallbrook. When I arrive at that fork, I often don’t make the decision of which way I’ll go until the very last second. If I go left, up Reche, I’ll get me home sooner, but I’ll pay for it with a steeper and more challenging climb. Conversely, going right, up Live Oak, will add a couple of miles to my trip home, but with a much gentler climb, and one that is more beautiful.
Many times though, has my front tire been pointed left up Reche, when at the last possible second, I turn right up Live Oak for the longer but prettier climb. A last-second ‘choice’.
That those decisions happen multiple times on every ride, and that they often happen so suddenly, sure seems like freewill to me.
Maybe I am a pawn in a greater or lesser game that I have no ownership in. I think about a giant in different realm or in a far away universe, sitting in a chair, staring at a screen, and controlling me with a joystick.
Cosmologist and mathematician George Ellis argues against the more recent speculation that all reality is just a projection or a holographic image.
Part of me likes the idea that there might not be free will. If there’s isn’t, if I tell a nun to screw off, I’m not gonna have to pay for it in my next life. But I don’t buy it — not the holographic projection for the absence of freewill.
Every time I go left where I generally take a right, I feel myself making that decision. I just know it’s me, and only me.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
15.0 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: For Beginners, by M. Ward
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 M. Ward. Enjoy…!
I spend roughly 90-minutes on my bike every day. A little bit less when life has me hurrying on behalf of others, and a little bit more on the weekends and on days when extra time actually finds me. It’s my Me Time.
I never squander extra time, I invest it.
In a perfect life, I would ride for about 3-hours every day — that would ideal. Maybe when I retire I can do that. Or when I semi-retire, since I plan to work at least part-time so long as I’m able.
More than a few people have asked me about that red and gray bag I have on the top-tube of my bikes — that thing that has the appearance of a small gas tank.
It’s my tool/utility bag.
A lot of cyclists don’t like this style of bag because they break up the aerodynamics of the bike, they add a little bit more weight, and they break up the aesthetic of the bike’s appearance.
I appreciate this style of tool bag though, so much. It may influence the weight, the aerodynamics, and the aesthetic, but it’s a great insurance policy when I’m 20-miles from home. It’s larger than most cycle bags, but allows me to carry just about everything I might need on my rides.
In the bag I keep…
– A spare inner-tube in case of a flat
– Levers to help remove a tire in case of a flat
– A CO2 pump and (2) CO2 cartridges in case of a flat
– $20 bill in case I need food/drink or a taxi (in case of a flat)
– My insurance card in case I need an emergency room
– On the back of the insurance card is my emergency contact information in case I can’t speak for myself in the emergency room
– A multi-tool with a small socket set, hex wrenches, screwdrivers, a knife, and a bottle opener — this tool can work with any fitting or fastener on any bike I own.
– A Ziploc bag to protect my phone in case it rains
– Reading glasses — to see what I’m doing during repairs
Also, it appears that I have 2 water bottles, one on my down-tube in the other on my seat-tube. In warm weather, they are filled with water.
In the winter though, and on cold days in particular, the bottle on the seat-tube actually contains spare gloves, a spare beanie to wear under my helmet, and spare socks. These might get used if I’m out for an extended period and rain soaks the ones I’m already wearing. I’ll just stop under a tree, swap out the wet garments for dry ones, and continue about my way.
Or, they might get used if I drop into a colder elevation which happens frequently this time of year. In a matter of several miles I can go from 50°F down to 30°F. If this gets the better of me, I can just double up my gloves, socks, and beanie to keep a little warmer — or to keep from getting too cold.
I also keep a few peppermints just under the cap, for a quick sugar in case I start to bonk.
For longer rides, I’ll put one more tool bag on the top tube and include a little food, a spare tire, some chain lube, and usually have enough room left to add an item that might be relevant for a longer ride, such as a windbreaker or a headlamp to be clipped on later, should my ride continue into darkness.
So that’s it. That’s what goes with me when I ride.
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t reflect on my Boy Scout days, and all these years later, those lessons serve me well.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
17.1 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: Josephine, by Chris Cornell
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 Chris Cornell. Enjoy…!