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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Other Wayward Sons

This place is (by a long reach) named after a song from long ago when I was still a big-haired, high school-hating farm kid. Back then almost everything I heard was on a badly distorting AM radio bolted to a tractor fender or a dusty cassette deck in the cow barn. Most of it just faded away or became background music at the grocery store but a few songs got under the sunburn and stayed for the duration. 'Carry On Wayward Son' was one of them. Yeah, it wasn't particularly good or especially meaningful as songs go but it stuck just the same. Sometimes odd things mean something to someone and there's no explaining it. But I know I always felt like I was Wayward in ways I couldn't understand and so here we are.

One of my sons graduated from college last week. The other one is working and doing that adult thing with the best of them. They're off and rolling. Now I find myself asking the questions parents of every generation have asked...When did they grow up, stop being the boys and become men?

I look at them and wonder...as every father does I suppose...how did all this happen? I'm in the same fix as anyone that's ever turned their kids loose on the world. You wonder if you did it right. They didn't come with an instruction manual. Two small people just showed up and took over being everything. From the day they came home to the day they leave to lead lives of their own, they print memories and feelings on me every day. I'm ecstatic that they are who they are. They're the proudest thing in my life. They became absolutely wonderful people without much help from me sometimes.

I was gone so much of their young lives that I sometimes wonder if I even had much to do with raising them but they did good for being basically single-parented. I know...nobody ever wishes they'd spent more time at work and less time with their family. I feel it very much but reality really does suck and you have to work unless you're born loaded. Somehow...it worked out for them.

And now they're young men and the world is ahead. They'll have their own songs stuck in their heads I hope. It makes me smile to think of it.

They'll be Wayward in their own way and somehow...it'll all be okay. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I Need A Ride...

What is it about 'social media' that makes people so unsocial? I'm pretty unhappy this morning after yesterday's adventures in 'keeping in touch'. Turns out it's no more social out there than it ever was. The keyboards are humming with invective. Parsed by vacation pics and recipes is a veritable feast of forwards, rumors and internet outrage generators. I guess I'm supposed to be angry at someone or something all the time. I can't do it. 

I made the mistake of venturing back out into the 'social' world because I thought I might catch up with some of my old crew from the team and maybe even a rink-rat or two. I don't actually hate Fb per se but I got weary and wary so I put it on the back burner. I used it a lot for the team and have quite a few real-world friends that I can't keep in touch with any other way. It's useful at times but then there's days...

Like I said, I've been running pretty light on it for a bit while I sorted out my personal life so I kind of held my nose and dipped my toes back in. Foolishly I posted some photos and ride maps. 

Shortly thereafter, I got called out for failing to notify anyone that I was going for a Monday ride with my sweetheart, ridiculed for a post and indirectly called a Nazi sympathizer and a liberal snowflake. These are the friends I haven't blocked.

The one about the ride alone blew up into over 20 posts...most of which got deleted when it became apparent I was too naive to get the tone as intended. Turns out I'm snark-impaired. One woman apologized which was nice (and accepted) but the genii doesn't go back in the bottle well.

As for the one about being a Nazi...that came from a meme that wasn't directly addressed to me but since the friend posting it has to know or hope that I'll read it, it counts. You see, I have a fairly liberal slant so a post comparing liberals to Nazis hits pretty close. Aside from being a blatant violation of Godwin's Law, it just wasn't true...particularly about me. If anyone was trying to persuade me to change my viewpoint, a Third Reich reference is a poor place to start. If anyone cared. Apparently they don't.

I get that on your page, you can post whatever you want. You can offend to your hearts content and go for all the shock value the platform standards will allow. Or you can not. You can put up kitten pics or tell the world what you had for lunch (oh wait...that's Twitter). If you're going the personal opinion route though, it pays to remember the old saying about opinions and assholes...everyone has them but nobody wants to see yours. Everyone does love kitten pics. Just an observation...

I also understand that I don't have to look. If I'm "offended" (which became a derogatory term in itself somehow), I can just block you. Believe me...I have and I will. It seems a little ridiculous though with my privacy settings being what they are that I have to scrub my newsfeed every day. These are from people I want to be in contact with. Why does it often feel like the day I opened up an 18" sewer main and found out exactly where it was plugged? I don't dump stuff because I disagree. I flush it because it's awful. Some of it the junk that shows up has been around since I had a PS-1. Some of it is so bad that it isn't even wrong. A fair share is not only insulting but it insults your intelligence reading it. I want to talk to people, not read all-caps 'scary' rumors, phishing forwards and flat earth conspiracy bullshit. At some point doesn't it make sense to stop abusing the people who are allegedly your friends? The ones you want to hear what you have to say? The ones who don't always agree?

After all, your argument is not really much of an argument if you're preaching to the choir. That's not a debate, that's a pep rally. Yes you'll be pretty safe in that mirrored bubble you end up with...where everyone nods and forwards 'amen' but trust me in this...a bubble isn't that much different from a cell and mirrors are all black on the inside. If you stare long into the abyss...

Come out and play and I'll happily argue and debate all day long but I'm not going to be berated because I disagree. And at least do a cursory search before you come at me with something that 'the mainstream media will never tell'. Who knows...come armed with facts instead of insults and you might change my mind. I might change yours. What a concept.

Just remember that in my world, your point is automatically invalid as soon as you resort to terms like 'snowflake', 'cuck', 'lib (or anything else) tard". You give up your high ground when you call people by racial or sexual or economic snarl words. And if there's even a passing reference to infowars or any of that ilk as actual facts...we're done.

The point is, and I know this has been said a million times...why would you say something online that if it was said in person, could end a friendship, demolish Thanksgiving dinner or start a bar fight? You know who's going to see what you post. Maybe you don't care who it hurts. Maybe it doesn't even matter if it's true. Maybe it's easier to buckshot some snarky, mean thing than engage. Maybe if you shut down everything except what you want to see and hear, your opinion becomes your truth.

Maybe that's where we are. But that's not social...it's sociopathic.

And yes...I need a ride.

Friday, March 2, 2018

February Down

It's been an anniversary of sorts this week. Even though I still can't go into it much, it's enough that I got through another February. 

Almost everybody just wants to get through February and I'm no different. That's probably why it's the shortest month. It's stuck between coming down off the holidays in January and the first hint of spring somewhere in March. It's the hangover, late payment, pothole, frozen pipe month. If your furnace is going to give out or your car is going to quit, it'll be in February. You just want it to be over with and think about warmer, brighter days. It's even more than that to me.

The month is about endings and beginnings around the Home. My old familiar life ended forever in a February. Full stop. Reboot. Then like the seasons, everything started all over again.

It's still ongoing. In a few years, I should be able to blog it all but for now...

February will always be like a moonless 3:00 am to me. The darkest and loneliest hour. The deepest, most desolate part of the night before the sunrise. That time when it's coldest and quietest and the world seems to hold it's breath. When it's so still that you can almost hear hope fading and sometimes promises slip away like whispers.

That's how it was that one February when everything changed. But I found out that if you can hold on just a little while longer, dawn will slowly sneak over the horizon and day will always come again. It may seem like it'll never get there. It may be cloudy and gray when it does but if you can just hang on one more hour, even one more minute, there will be light again. The dark loses some of its power and life finds the way back into the world.

If you just don't close your eyes in that last few minutes before daybreak, you'll finally see a glow in the east and suddenly feel like you can live again. You'll find your bearings with the light even when you thought you were completely lost. I should know...I've seen the darkness fade out often enough and I swear it's the hardest time of all

But then ever so slowly, the night lifts up from the horizon and the hills get left behind by the stars. It's still cold in the morning this time of year and in my world, the workday is only partly over when the sun comes up. But that's how February is. Endings and beginnings. And still putting one foot in front of the other knowing that better days are coming. 

One of these years I've got a story to tell but until I can, I'm happy to have another February down. It's March now and the snow is falling hard but yesterday the air smelled a little of spring and promises. Winter is fading like the dark after a long night. February down for another year.

Somehow it makes me think once again of hope.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Florida On My Mind

I just can't take it anymore. I know we've been down this road before but this time...

I've been watching the news and it's full of the latest school attack in Florida. I'm just sick of it. I've had all the moments of silence and 'thoughts and prayers' I can stomach. I've had enough conspiracy theories, finger pointing and ridiculous arguments to last the rest of my days. 


Allegedly intelligent people refuse to accept that something is most certainly wrong with our civilian weaponry status quo and instead, spend hours at the keyboard attacking the victims, screaming injustice and pretending at patriotism. Thousands of social media warriors invoke their piety and proudly expound on what they would surely have done had they been there with their trusty sidearm. They stand ready and eager to kill anyone who they perceive as a threat. That eagerness says something in itself if anyone cared to read between the lines...but that's another post.

So lets just clear the air a little before I go much further. The fact is...I don't hate guns. I don't hate people who own guns. I don't want your guns taken away. I don't care how many you have. If you know me at all then you already know that.

What I do hate is turning on the news and seeing yet another attack. I hate that nobody wants to do anything. I hate the talking heads and politicians that embarrass themselves pandering to the money. I hate the liars and lunacy-peddlers that preach conspiracy. I hate that so many people work so hard to discredit and debase the witnesses and victims rather than put one tiny bit of energy into anything remotely constructive. I hate that my generation has failed yet again and more of our sons and daughters are dead because of it. 

Something is terribly, horrendously wrong and if you can't see it, you are simply not qualified to carry or own a firearm. Period. 

If you think the answer to too many gun deaths is more guns, we're not even in the same universe. If you believe every living soul should be armed, we're already speaking a different language. If you think this isn't about money then you're not paying attention. If you believe that nothing can be done to at least slow the death rate, please scroll off to InfoWars where your real friends are and save yourself the trouble of insulting me. Don't bother with the same old tropes about banning cars or knives or box cutters or fertilizer or anything else either. We're talking about weapons designed and built to be weapons. Focus.

Don't waste my time telling me if only everybody was armed, this would never happen. I call bullshit just like the kids from Douglas High School did. Nobody, least of all me; who has never faced a violent crisis knows what might happen in the adrenaline rush of the moment. Lethal force is a terrible responsibility. In the confusion, fear, noise and overload of an attack or even a perceived attack...how many terrified, minimally trained 'good guys with guns' firing in anger for the first time in their lives; in close quarters hallways and rooms full of equally terrified people do you see as being beneficial? What could possibly go wrong? 

Besides the likelihood of making bad worse, all that handy firepower floating around seems pretty likely to end up getting used for other purposes besides self-defense. Just ask the Uber Eats driver that recently killed his customer in an argument over basically nothing. Or ask yourself where all the bad guys you say so easily acquire guns actually get them. How many are stolen from the well-stocked good guys? For that matter...how many get flat-out sold by the good guys to the first taker with cash? Just a thought...

Also save the video argument. Don't tell me that we should ban GTA or first-person-shooters or violent movies and TV before we talk about guns. My kids play video games all the time. They don't seem to be building arsenals. I've watched both 'John Wick' movies. I have no desire to run out and shoot up nightclubs after doing so. I've seen 'The Hobbit' too but it didn't make me suddenly believe in elves. My sons and I know the difference between fantasy and reality. You should too.

So moving along. We should talk about mental health? Ok...who's doing the talking? Who gets to say who's in trouble and to what degree? The government? The same ones who are busy scheming to take away your guns and covering up UFOs? Who wants to be the first to put their medical records in a database that every gun shop, random state bureaucrat and your employer can access? Sign me up for that. Not.

The number of people with mental issues of some sort or another is probably unknowable anyway. Think of how many webcrawlers out there believe they need to stockpile weapons and ammo to defend against tyranny and you'll start to see the trend. One man's mental case is another man's patriot you know. These are the fully rational people that love and respect the military and law enforcement but feel the need to have the ability to kill a lot of them should it come to that. The idea that one guy in a bunker can hold off the police or that a bunch of weekend warriors scampering around in the woods could outfox the military for more than 10 minutes is pretty bizarre by itself. It speaks volumes about how much we probably do in fact need to take a hard look at who's stable enough to own firearms and who isn't.

The question then is where do we go from here? I don't have the answers you'll like. I have some suggestions...but first we have to start acting like the adults in the room. If everything begins with the premise that the end game is to confiscate your armory and dump you in a FEMA camp under WalMart...then you have nothing more to say that can be helpful. Watch the young people and learn.

Anyway let's just start...since vehicles as weapons comes up all the time when the socially strident start talking about guns, let's look at it from that angle. You know the drill. "When are we going to ban cars because more people die in cars that with guns?" Never heard that one before.

To refresh...to own and operate a car on the road you have to jump through some hoops. Nobody gives it much thought...it's just the way it is. It doesn't stop very many people from having the privilege of using public highways but it does set a minimum standard and provides a system of regulation and record keeping that seems to work out fairly well. So take a peek at what's required for something as common as driving that...by the way...is not even remotely protected by a Constitutional Amendment. Not even mentioned yet for most people, it typically does not keep them from owning or operating a vehicle.

For starters...you have to be of a certain age. Then you have to get a state-issued permit that becomes your ID. That allows you to practice driving while under supervision. Most states require some minimal training before you take a test to show a certain amount of competence before they turn you loose on the motoring public. Insurance is required in case something unexpected and unfortunate occurs and you must also register the vehicle you're driving or be able to prove who owns it so law enforcement knows it isn't stolen should that come up in conversation. Are you seeing how this looks?

To operate larger vehicles or motorcycles takes more training, testing and an endorsement on your license. The laws become more stringent the more responsibility you have. Hazardous material haulers have more regulation than pizza delivery drivers. Taxis and buses are different again. Nobody questions this much. Nobody worries the deep state will confiscate their big-stack coal-roller just because it's registered and insured. 

Does everyone on the road have a current license and keep their insurance paid up? Of course not. I got rear-ended by an unlicensed, uninsured driver once but that's a rarity and the system worked to get me and the car fixed and hold the driver accountable. Yes, a percentage of the population will always scofflaw until they get caught but the argument that since 'criminals will always find a way' so it's pointless to regulate at all goes out the window every time you walk into a DMV.

So why is such a mechanism which almost everyone routinely deals with on a regular basis so absolutely unacceptable to the Ted Nugent fan club at the NRA? Let me venture a guess...because EVERY SINGLE option proposed is instantly elevated to a Constitutional crisis and an existential threat. The reasonable voices of the vast majority of gun owners gets drowned out in the screaming. Everyone is shouting but nobody's listening.

The thing is, there's much we can do. Things we already do. Things that really don't interfere too much with doing what we want yet provide some structure and a basic frame of reference and regulation. Is it foolproof? Nope...the kid that smashed my LTD proves it. But would I like to be on the road knowing that because we couldn't prevent ALL unlicensed driving, then nobody needs a license? Would you put your kids out there knowing that nobody was insured or even superficially trained? It's bad enough as it is.

Oh and that guy driving the gasoline truck? Somebody drove one once with a suspended license and we couldn't stop him so from now on, we'll just forgo the Hazmat endorsement and roll the dice. Bad people will always find a way anyhow so what's the point? See how that sounds?

The idea that we can't do anything because we can't do everything is ludicrous. It's lazy. It says we are helpless and should just accept the killing. It says that corporate profits and our personal desires outweigh everything. That having the right to own as many guns as possible is worth every one of the lives lost. 

I don't buy it. And neither do the kids in Florida. And neither should you.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Taking The Knee

The call has gone out from the highest office in the land for professional sports figures to be banned from playing because they, for reasons of their own conscience, choose to kneel instead of standing for the national anthem. This a foolish thing in a long string of very foolish things. 

The call is for spectators to leave the stands and boycott the team unless patriotism is enforced and displayed prominently regardless of individual belief. 

Does anyone realize that mandatory displays of anything are simply displays of nothing? Fear is very different from respect. Compulsory respect is not freedom. 

My idea of patriotism and liberty would be this; that every one of the tens of thousands of fans in every one of hundreds of stadiums, speedways and arenas...just one time...kneels with the players before the first note blows from the bugle. For just one single, silent, solitary moment. 

In defiance of tyranny. For the love of country. For the sake of all of us.

Just for one shining moment...

That would be the sound of freedom roaring.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Irma, Florida and a Trailer Park

I watched Hurricane Irma tear up through Florida this week. And through all the bad news I wondered about one guy in a trailer park somewhere in the middle of it.

Tim Joe...I hope you're ok.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Days Away

I've been on vacation. 

For the last seven years, my habit has been to take couple of weeks off in August and this one was no exception. The difference this time around...there was no FLX Tour de Cure to fill up the first week. You can find that story here if you haven't read it. It's pretty strange.

My vacation was already assigned for '17 though and I couldn't really think of a reason to change it so I left it alone. I wondered what I'd do with myself if I wasn't painting arrows on a hundred miles of road and juggling a bike team. When the Tour shut down, I was pretty lost.

In the months that followed the cancellation, most of the people from the team sort of drifted away. There was a couple of less-than-pleasant Facebook exchanges so I closed the team page and called it a day. I lost track of pretty much everyone. I rode in the Saratoga NY Tour in June but it wasn't the same. It was corporate, shiny, slick and impersonal. It was a lot of good things to be sure, but there was no 'Train team tent with pink flamingos, sunflowers and conga lines in the parking lot. Nobody was laughing. I felt like a stranger to it all so I put on my best public smile and just drove away.

On the other hand, life being what life is...I found some sunshine to chase away The Black that was hanging around just off my wheel. After a couple of false starts, I met someone. But first; a little backstory...

I haven't said much about it but the main reason the Home hasn't been home much of late is that my thirty-year marriage dissolved in what the lawyers call "irreconcilable differences". Who saw that one coming? It's been many years getting to this and I won't go into the details here or now but suffice it to say, it's not been easy for a really long time. 

We all have our demons and mine were persistent bastards who found an open door through the proceedings and tried every trick in the book to destroy me. It's been a battle I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Along the way somewhere, I found that I had to wander back out into the world. Unless I wanted to live completely alone until the clock stopped for good, I had to leave Home once again. How do you do that when you've never even considered it? Counseling helped. My sister helped more. I can tell you that it ain't easy and as of this writing it still isn't over.

But my ADHD self is wandering around looking at squirrels again...

As I started to say, I met someone...on roller skates no less...who loves to ride bikes besides...and in a round-about way from that meeting, I relearned a few things:

I found out all over again that riding bikes can be a ball even when you don't do 'epic' mileage every time. Sometimes just getting on the hybrid in shorts and a t-shirt and cruising to an ice cream stand with someone who smiles at you every time you look at her is what bicycling should be. Yes, I rode some real miles in the years I was falling apart but a lot of them were angry miles. Miles that were to forget...not remember. And they were mostly alone. Don't get me wrong, I loved riding and a 200 mile day is still on my bucket list but it isn't as pressing as it was. I'm riding just to ride again like it was when I first jumped back on the pedals all those years ago. No kit, no funny shoes, no weird shorts...just a simple bike and some simple fun. My road bike misses me but we're still friends. We'll spend more time together again for sure but for now...it's almost back to the beginning.

I also remembered how much fun roller skating really is. I skated more than I care to think about in my younger years. It seemed like if I wasn't working, I was on eight wheels. Most of my 20's found me at a rink somewhere jamming around in some form of hideous polyester under a cloud of big hair. I'm very happy there are only a few photos.

But leap ahead about thirty years and I find my old Douglas-Snyders still in pretty good shape...just as heavy as ever but still at home on my feet. I dusted them off, polished the boots and went back out on the floor. It seems that some things never change. 

During one session, I worked up my courage and asked that above-mentioned someone to skate with me. Got turned down flat because I was sweaty and kinda weird. But it didn't matter. We ended up skating together anyway...even though I'm usually still soaked like a sponge. The easy delight of skating along with someone to a slow song is what she calls "a happy place" and I know exactly what she means. 

It was all part of something that got lost along the way. Something that somehow became sad. It got misplaced somehow with so many other little joys that eventually drained the life out of everything I did. But I think I've found it again and it seems that it never changed. Only I did.

And yes, I found out that something as simple as holding hands is still as wonderful as ever. Just plain wonderful.

In the dark times, I used to watch people walking and holding hands. My soul ached for that tiny, fleeting touch that meant so much. That one easiest of things that I no longer had. I found that I missed it more than almost anything. Something so small. I think it was one of the first things we lost when everything fell apart. Maybe that's why I missed it so.

Something so small...so easy. And so wonderful. It just makes me smile.

But now the vacation is over and it's back to work. There's memories that make me happy. And I've got time to think about what to do for next year. I think I'll keep the August time off just as a tradition but who knows...vacations are supposed to be about adventures so you never know.

 Hey, at least I can think about next year...that's sort of a vacation in itself.

Stay tuned...