Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two in Passing

Forgive me for stealing this from my Facebook page.  Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?  

"A tale of two riders from a few days ago: Rider Number One came up behind me at around mile 21 on a slick carbon roadie with a cockpit like a jet and slowed a little so I could fall in beside him. We talked bikes, weather, destinations and rides a while then he went on ahead when my cell chirped and I had to swing off. Nice to meet someone as cold and far from home as me. Pleasant.

Rider Number Two pulled slowly past me into the wind at about mile 40...fully decked out in Specialized, with all the correct cold weather gear but nary a nod of the balaclava or a lift of the stylishly gloved finger to acknowledge a how ya doin'. Um...sorry...I know you're focused and determined and incredibly fast and you probably look and smell better than I do too but would it kill you to glance sideways and snort to one of the unwashed masses riding aluminum? I've got 40 in and I might be slow, but I'm out here too. Snob.

Moral of the story: Remind me to always be Mr. Rider Number One no matter what. We're all in it together."

Moral of the story: Remind me to always be Mr. Rider Number One no matter what. We're all in it together."

I wrote that while I was still pretty steamed after watching guy #2 fade into the distance ahead.  Not because he was leaving me in his wake, that happens all the time so I'm used to it.  It was just that casual disregard of something as basic as a hello.  For some reason, that bugged the hell out of me.  If I could have caught him, he might have told me he was having a crummy day or something was going badly in his world or he was lost in thought trying to figure out a warp drive and that would be ok.  There's things going on with all of us below the surface and that's a fact.  But it doesn't let you out of being human.

Then again, he probably has a bunch of friends who think he's a great guy...a true hardman that rides in rotten weather and lives Rule #5.  Maybe he worked the last 10 days straight and finally got a chance to get out.  What if he just had a fight with his wife and went for a ride to clear the smoke?  Or maybe he just had his music cranking under the layers or maybe he's actually deaf like one of the guys on my team or he was intent on his Strava or maybe he hated the wind as much as I did but whatever he was, he certainly wasn't blind.  He saw another rider and for whatever reason, chose to look right past and by so doing, made the day seem a little colder and the wind a little meaner.  He may or may not know what happened in that few seconds or even care but it struck me as a moment lost and gone.

Then there's another thought; ain't it funny how the first guy doesn't get the press of the second out of me.  Maybe that's a commentary on something else all by itself.  I zeroed in on the unpleasant.  Have to chew on that one a while...

Anyway, I'd like to believe #2 wasn't being an inconsiderate creep just for the hell of it, only because I like to think of people that way, that benefit of the doubt thing...but yeah...I know...he could simply be a jerk and that's all it was.  An indifferent slight because he just didn't give a crap.  But I hope not.

After all, it seems like such a small investment to look across the gap between two people and see that someone is travelling beside you, even if it's only for that one moment in passing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Told You So

Yeah I did.  I guess maybe it's time.

I've spent months (maybe years) in kind of a daze.  Without going into any detail, let's just say things have been...vastly different.  Life as I knew it has pretty much gone off the cliff and now everything has changed.  But I'm not going there today.

Today I'm thinking of other things.  I'm thinking that the sun is out and the frost is melting off the grass.  At long last, I can finally see enough of the grass to tell the frost is melting off.  It's still too cold this early in the morning to drag my old joints out for a ride on the Trek but there's hope for noon or so.  With any luck, before the phone rings with the little voice from Crew Management on it wanting me to haul another train load of Canadian Stuff south, I can clip in for a short one.  There's still a ton of salt on the road and some of the potholes could swallow a Smart Car but if I don't start somewhere...well, I just won't start.  But I probably should at least finish this before I start something else...

It's been one hell of a winter.  I've burned most of a medium-sized forest trying to keep warm since roughly Thanksgiving Day.  The pipes froze a couple of times.  The pipes never freeze in this house...or so I thought.  The west wind started up at some point and turned into a shotgun blast straight out of the Ninth Circle that kept going for days on end.  It was one tough fight but after blowing the thermometer down into negative numbers so low even the dogs wouldn't go outside, that miserable wind finally worked its way through the wall and into the PVC.  This in spite of the boiler in the basement that glowed and sizzled constantly in defiance.  Don't even talk to me about the holidays.  I almost thought it would never end.

There wasn't even much snow most of the time, just cold.  I could live with snow.  You plow it, shovel it, bitch about it but it's pretty when the sun comes out.  A clean snow covers up the dead leaves, mud and unfinished projects.  It makes you squint out the window and blink away tears that might be from other things and think of sled rides and snowmen.

But the cold gets in your head and just sits there.  It's dark like the days and unrelenting as ice itself.  Even when you bury yourself in the covers, you know it's out there tapping on the siding, looking for a way in.  It snaps the rails just for spite and dares you to touch a grab iron with your bare hand.  It hates you.  It hates everything that lives or moves.  Its only ally is the northwest wind, that miserable hammer and nail that drives the cold right down to your soul where it can freeze the hope out of you.  It hates hope too because hope is a precious thing and bright...warm but hard to hold onto when the Clippers scream in.  The Bean-shìdh wind and Dante's ice gang up and and try desperately to tear out what little hope you have left for spring days.  No...winter and I will never be friends.

But today is early April and the woodpile is getting a reprieve.  I've been out riding a little over the last few days when it gets warm enough for my fingers to work the shifters.  It feels pretty good to move again even though the Man With the Hammer hangs close on my six this time of year.  I think he's related to the cold and also hates me but at least I can fight him with only a sandwich and a water bottle.  I think he'll fall behind as I get my legs back and with any luck, he'll get on somebody else's wheel and leave me alone for the summer.  

Sooner or later, it'll rain enough to wash the last of the salt off the road too.  Like I said, I can't stand putting the only good road bike I've got out on it but I can't wait all year.  The DOT guys over-achieved spreading the stuff and every truck going by kicks up clouds of brine dust that coats everything.  Even my water bottle is a salt lick.  Riding shouldn't taste like an eight hour shift in a Morton plant unless it's sweat running out from under your shades.  Patience Wayward...patience.

Patience and hope.  So hard to find after such a long time and so many dark, cold weeks.  I'm left with days I can't think about and days I can't think at all.  Those are the long shadows of winter that always follow along.  Like my age, I can't ride hard enough or far enough to outrun them so I just ride.  

So for today and other days, I'll ride a little and perhaps write a little.  We'll see.  Maybe it really is time after all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm still here...

The song says..."It's been such a long time..."

Another year has come and gone and so many things have changed.  Should I stay or should I go from the Home is something I ask every day.  I miss it here but there's a lot of memories hiding in the corners that just aren't what they used to be.  So much has changed.  The days are long and the nights are forever.

But I went for a ride the other day and that's good I guess.  Heading nowhere execpt somewhere.  For some reason, I remember the whole world smelled of apples as I went along.  Apples and old, musty summer; getting ready to finally give up the fight against the turn into fall.

As I often do, I took on the meanest hills I could find...still trying to out-ride my age and disposition.  It was hot and muggy and predictably, my legs once again gave out on the last big climb.  They're forever doing that and so I walked a while on funny shoes that were never meant for anything but pedals.  Slogging along pushing the bike and trying to get myself back together seemed like a metaphor.

It all gets a little hazy when you're walking up the road with sweat and the sun dripping down in your eyes.  The Man With the Hammer is nearby and he's laughing at your battle to keep your lunch where it belongs.  Everything hurts and the top of the hill looks like the end of the world.  Metaphors.

Eventually, the road flattens out a little as they always do and I can clip back into a wobbly semblance of a ride over the crest.  I'll have a sore throat from gasping for air but at least there's a chance I'll make it home under my own power.  I pick a dirt road for the last leg even though I know it'll rattle my eyeballs.  This only because I also know it tends downhill and there's not much left for another climb.  I'll take the shakes if I don't have to fight another hill.  It'll be almost dark now that the days are shorter but I think the driveway is possible.  Some things at least, never change.

The funny part is, I know I'll do this again no matter how much it hurts and keep doing it until I can't.  I don't know what that means but I know it's true.  And for now, I remember the smell of apples.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The End of Home?

So here we are.  And where do I begin?  Or begin again?

I miss tapping away on my old Wayward Home but so much has changed.  This has been a winter that seemed to never have a spring.  A long, cold season.

The long days and longer nights have taken some of the joy out of spinning tales and made the Wayward Home feel like it's not really a home so much anymore.  It seems like so many of the stories I wanted to tell have a different ending than I thought and putting my fingers to the keys and writing them down feels like saying fare-thee-well.

How do I begin?  Or how does it end?  Maybe it's time to shut the WH down and do something else.  Maybe there isn't much more to be said.  Maybe I don't know how to say it.  But then...I miss my Home and wish I could bring it back to life...even if it was a different place.  So how do I begin again?

It took all week to get this far.  Maybe with the slow, late arrival of a spring...will come brighter days...and a Home...or something like it.  Or maybe not.  We'll see...

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Blocks

I've been thinking.  A lot.  There's probably been about a dozen starts to this post but it never quite seems to get off the ground.  Maybe too much is flying around in my head all at once to actually put it in one place and have it make any sense.  Is it blogger's-block?  Somehow, there just seems to be a thousand little pieces of posts but not enough to make a whole one.  It's frustrating because writing has always been pretty good for what ails me.  Especially during the dark winter months when I always come down with the blues.  I knew I wanted to do a new-year post to break the ice (in more ways than one) but after one or two sentences...I kept deleting it and starting over.  I'm usually not one to run out of stuff to say so I'm a little confused.

My blogging friend Tim Joe over at TTPC said to just bang on the keyboard until something happened...forget what it was supposed to say and just say something...anything.  He's right of course.  That's how a lot of this thing has come about.  Just sitting at my laptop and something zooms through my head and becomes a post.  Unfortunately, not too much has been zooming of late.  But I guess I'll give it a go...

So much has happened since I last put anything up in the Home.  My previous post was anger at the hate and lunacy filling the world.  The one before that was anger at my world.  Somewhere, a lot of unhappy crept in.  I almost think that might be why I haven't written much...things feel out of balance.

I'm still running those all-night trains for a living which keeps me off schedule and kind of jet-lagged a fair amount of the time.  Time shifting has never been easy and as I get older, it gets tougher.  Days and nights aren't supposed to get all tangled up.  Someone once said that the worst thing ever put on a locomotive was a headlight and I'm inclined to agree.  That's when 0300 became a normal time to go to work for most of my career and 7 in the morning sometimes becomes happy hour.  I remember watching in wonder as a guy at an Allentown crew hotel had two Killian's Irish Reds with a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich at 8:00 in the morning one day.  We'd just gotten off duty and were grabbing breakfast before trying to get some rest in full daylight, knowing full well it would never happen.
"That looks hard", I said as I walked past his table on my way to pay my tab.  "Yeah it is", he said "but I'll sleep good."  Out of balance.

Then I look around the news every day and wonder.  I'm not going there right now but...what the hell happened to us?  I know that bad news and crisis' sell advertising and jack up the pageviews but come on.  Would it be that hard to say something good?  My Facebook page is the same way.  Conspiracies, rumors, hate and controversy have taken over a big chunk of it.  What happened to cat pictures and hilarious rottencards?  Everybody's sure we're headed for concentration camps or Sharia law.  We used to post about our friends and worry about being tagged in drunk/stupid photos, now my newsfeed is mostly political rants and dire warnings.  I'm thinking about just bagging the whole thing.  Out of balance.

Then there's what's right here under my own roof.  For now at least, the Wayward Home is not what it used to be and it wears heavy.  Let's just say that winter is here with cold nights and chilly winds.  I'm not sure when spring will ever arrive and change the weather or what might happen between now and then but there's a chill in the air that ten cords of firewood can't take off.  More of life out of balance.

Maybe if it would stop snowing and being nasty outside the back door, I'd feel some better but right this second, it just started spitting again and the big thermometer on the deck hasn't cracked 20 in days.  I think I need a ride.  Winter is always like this to me in some ways but this year seems like we're stuck in the Mother of All Januarys.  Just to be outside a while without having to bundle up like Nanook of the North would improve my outlook a bit.  Maybe.  Or maybe the sun will come out, the blocks will come off and somehow, someway, the Home will be home.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In The Wake of Another Sandy

The internet. A place of wonder and evil. The Wayward Home lives there but so does madness.

I wrote on my Facebook page after I'd seen more than enough of the latter for one day:

Pro or con. Every last one of you. Respect. Stop raving about guns and lunatic politics. Argue and hate in another hour. For just one brief, shining moment.   Stop it. 

Be silent.

Grieve for innocence and children. 

Grieve for us.