i was riding my bike around downtown denver today looking for a place
to pick up some quick eats. it’s pretty fun riding a bike through the
metropolis in the middle of the day.  i passed a couple of eating
places along the way, but none of them really caught my heart.  as i
ventured out further into the city, i saw a sign for a neraby chinese
restaurant that was voted “best in lodo” [lodo is lower downtown].
that sounded kind of what i was looking for so i rode by really
slowly. then as i pulled into the little courtyard of this chinese
restaurant, i saw this japanese restaurant called yoko’s. i wasn’t
really thinking about japanese food prior to this, but now that i saw
this place, i was thinking nothing but japanese food.  i walked into
the place and was quickly ignored.  there were a few older japanese
women working there and the main one was busy taking care of another
customer who was ready to pay.  she was about 60-70 years old and had
the voice of someone who had smoked for most of those years.  but
through the gravel her voice was distinctively japanese.  i stood
there and waited…. and waited.  finally someone from the kitchen
popped her head out and said please have a seat. i picked one
seat..but didn’t like it so i got up and found a better one, one where
i could see my bike.

the place was indistinctly japanese.  with the exception of the ladies
who worked there… there was nothing japanese about this place. no
buda, no bamboo, no tatami mats, no pictures of mt fuji, just laminate
tables,  vinyl cushioned chairs, and a small painting of a
soaring eagle. this place was really like a diner.  you order your
food from the waitress, someone brings it out to you, then you pay at
the counter.

2 (1)

the menu was a little more japanese, it was printed on a light colored
paper with some kind of design on the background, but the choices blew
my mind.  they had more choices than any other place i’ve been to,
outside of japan.  i make this statement despite that fact that they
did not have sushi.  i know it’s kind of weird for a japanese
restaurant to not have sushi, but if you look at the place, it makes
total sense.  it’s run by a few older women, two in the kitchen, one
at the front counter, and one running around doing other stuff.
probably a bunch of women that had cooked every meal for their
families all their lives, and now that the home is empty and there is
no one to cook for they decided to open a restaurant and cook for
their friends and the rest of us.

1 (1)

i ordered a “salmon on rice”, that came with a salad and some miso
soup. and much like the restaurant where it was made, it was
different. there was no flash to it at all.  i know we all go to
japanese restaurants and expect fancy garnishings and elaborate plates
and bowls, but nothing here. just food, like it was being served to
you by your mother. i wish i had taken a picture of it, in it’s
simplistic beauty.  it was so appealing to just look at it.  the women
probably had no idea how much i appreciated it. out of respect for the
meal, i put away my phone, and closed my eyes as i chewed each and
every bite.

a few days ago, i was in a dialog with someone, about something. i don’t remember what it was.  the only thing i remember was that i was in a big hurry and the person i was talking to was not.  i had asked a 98 cent question, and received a $3.78 answer. oh god it was painful to sit there and wait for the answer to come out.  i felt so rude, because i was no longer listening, and just talking internally to myself about what a big waste of time this is.  after i left the conversation…this story popped in my head.

when i was a young kid about middle school age, my family used to build houses.  we built about 5 or 6 houses in the mountain, entirely by our selves, just my dad, my brother, and yours truly.  the first house we built, we had limited skills, and had to hire an occasional person to help teach us how to do some things. like my dads plumber friend who used to smoke pot in the truck as we all drove u to the building site. the drywall guy who was like a robot with a beer, cigarette, and a hammer.  then there was rg the brick mason.  i used to think his name was archie, but one day i saw how it was written, and changed my pronunciation before he noticed. i never used to really call him by his name anyway, because i was always a little afraid of him.

rg was actually a nice guy, but was very coarse. he talked to kids like he talked to adults.  he talked to adults like he was in a small bar in the middle of hell.  he was about 75 years old, big pot belly, and he swore a lot. he referred to everyone as “sarg” [with a j sound].  “how’s it going sarg?”, “hand me that hammer sarg”.  regularly used words like son of a bitch, cock sucker, and mother fucker…etc.   my brother and i used to laugh, because we couldn’t use any swear words, and here this guy was using them all.  every sentence was packed with profanity.

we hired him to do our fire place.  he was kind of old so we did most of the hard work and rg just laid the brick.  my brother mixed the mortar, and i would carry buckets of mortar and bricks up the scaffold and give them to rg.  i really liked doing this, because it was a little bit challenging and dangerous.  when we got near the end we were over 20 feet up.  rg was up at the top cursing and swearing by himself.  i guess me and my brother were a little too quiet for him, and he needed to talk.

the chimney was almost done and i was carrying one of my last loads.  as i dropped off the last pile of mortar, i asked rg if he needed anything else.  rg said, “i need five more bricks sarg!”

i looked at his pile of bricks and could see that he had 2 bricks in his pile, and one in his hand.  it was a long way up the scaffold and i was getting a little bit tired.  i didn’t want to make any mistakes, so i asked him,” do you mean five more bricks including the ones you already have, or five more in addition to the ones you already have?”

rg stopped what he was doing for a second, looked over at me and said, ” i don’t give a fuck how you figure it, just give me five bricks!”

i stood there kind of shocked for a moment, but then realized that i didn’t want to wait for anything else to come out of rg’s mouth.  i bolted down the scaffold so fast it must have looked like i was falling.  when i got down, my brother asked, “how many more bricks does he need?”

i said, ” i’m not sure but i’m bringing up five!”

this story has stuck in my head till this day.  i think of it all the time, and in my head i am frequently saying, “…just give me five bricks!”

the end

bike envy

when i was around 17 years old my best friend bought a brand new celeste colored bianchi racing bike. to this day, that is the one bike that i absolutely need, seriously i may check ebay today, or post an add in craigslist “missed connections” m4b. oh my god this was a beautiful bike, i still remember how thin and sleek it was, how it stood out amongst other bikes….. sigh.

what was i talking about? oh yeah bike envy. the problem with bike envy, any envy for that matter, is that it makes you like what you have a little bit less. after my friend got his bike it wasn’t long before i stated becoming embarrassed that i didn’t have a racing bike, and that i wasn’t wearing “molteni” jerseys, and tight fitting cycling pants. come to think of it that’s about when i began to take on running. i couldn’t afford to keep up with cycling, and running was very cheap, and runners all seemed friendlier and less concerned about gear.

i kind of left cycling, and it just became my form of transportation, and running became my passion. i ran some road races, joined the cross country and track teams in college, and even ran a couple marathons. i was a decent runner and fairly competitive….until my injury. i had achilles tendonitis and running was off the table for a while. i began biking for exercise. it was really cool, my few years of running had made me stronger, most of my pain receptors got burned off and i was much tougher as well. i rode almost every day about 20-30 miles, i often tried to maintain 20 mph, but all bets were off if it was windy. and, if i ever came into contact with a peloton of cyclist, i would back off a bit and kind of shy away.

cycling should not be intimidating. however, cycling is probably one of the most socially demanding, clickish sports around. it always has been and perhaps always will. there are bike messengers, the wanna be messengers riding to work everyday, the critical mass people, the single speeders, bmx street/freestyle, kids who ride to school, girls with baskets and flowers on their bikes, mountain bikes, trials riders, racers/cyclist…. just to name a few.

somewhere in my 30’s i became a racer. i guess i finally had a good enough job to buy all the cycling garb. i mostly did mountain bike races, with a few road races thrown in for fun. for a brief 5-7 years i actually fit in. i had cycling friends, went on group rides, took spin classes, and had shaved legs. cyclist were actually a good group of people…once you’re “in”.

sometimes the only way to realize that you don’t need something, is to actually have it. i didn’t need to be a cyclist. i didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a “good” bike, or hundreds of dollars of garb. all i really need is a bike that works, clothes that wick moisture and shaved legs. what?! shaved legs?!? i know there is probably nothing more clickish than someone shaving their legs, but the thing is… there are many aspects of cycling that are good. embrace all of cycling not just the clicks. never look down on someone who doesn’t have a multi thousand dollar bike, or even a multi hundred dollar bike. never tell someone or think that someone has a “crappy” bike. never make excuses for your own bike not being as good as someone else’s.

my mission is to encourage cycling in any and all forms. i don’t usually ride in cycling garb, although i do occasionally. i try to make cycling very approachable. my everyday bike is quite modest, my clothes are plain, and i try to smile and wave to everyone on a bike. i try to help anyone with bike troubles. i am still pretty fast, and i can chase down almost any “cyclist” that tries to pass me with out saying “hi”.

last night i volunteered at the denver rescue mission.  i had thought about doing it months ago, but i guess i got too caught up in my own life to really do anything till now.  i signed up online, a couple days prior, and i couldn’t wait for some reason.  this place is in the heart of lower downtown denver.  it’s right on broadway, and you can’t miss it as you drive by. there is a big traffic island right outside where many of the homeless congregate, and to the locals it’s know as “homeless island.”  there is not much parking around there and quite frankly the parking is kind of sketchy.

i didn’t have to worry about parking because i rode my bike from work down to the mission.  i only had to go a couple of miles but the night was very pleasant and the ride seemed like nothing.  when i arrived, i had to maneuver through the homeless and find a pole to lock my bike.  i was a little worried because my seat post was kind of expensive and it was held on by just a quick release.  i worry about such stupid things sometimes.  i walked in, signed up and sat down like i had been doing this all my life.

there were several of us who were all meeting for the first time.  most of the people at the table were very young like 20 or so, and still in college.   this was all before dinner and no one was eating just yet.  our guide andrew, gave us a tour before our shift started.  he showed us the chapel, the beds, the bathrooms…it was amazing.  people are really taken care of…it’s just too bad that there are so many people that need help.

this place is very christian. infact anyone eating there is encouraged to go to the chapel  and listen to the service before eating. it’s part of the evening.  the homeless are guided to the chapel to listen to the service for about one hour then they can go off to eat. i asked our leader if this was required. he told us that it was not “required” but strongly encouraged… then he smiled, and said, “this is a christain mission.”

the eating facilities are actually quite small. i was expecting a big high school sized cafeteria, but instead it looked like a large break room with about 14 round tables.  each table was capable of seating about 5, and if you do the math we had room for about 70.  i think only about 50 showed up.

tonight was taco night.  they were serving a taco casserole with rice and beans [i think].  it smelled and looked so good on those dented cold metal trays.  you guessed it; i was starving.  my lunch was so long ago and my short ride from work to the mission just kicked my appetite into second gear.  i was too embarrassed to ask if i could eat too, besides i didn’t even feel like i was helping all that much.

my job was to take the trays from the kitchen and hand them off to the homeless.  i was told to just smile and hand them off in a certain orientation.  in fact i got i “yelled” at by the overly uptight micromanaging boss when i handed the trays off in wrong position.  (who gets yelled at when they are doing volunteer work?)  i just kind of blew it off, because this guy seemed like his personality was strung too tight anyway.  even the homeless people were surprised, and one guy said, “what the fuck? like turning the tray is going to make it taste better?”  i smiled because here we are worlds apart, in completely different situations, probably nothing in common, we don’t know each other… and this guy “had my back!”  i felt really good after that, and i don’t know why but everyone in line seemed a lot happier. perhaps i saw them differently, or perhaps we bonded for a short moment over something kind of stupid.

i was  a little disappointed after the line ended.  i wanted to hand out more trays [in the correct orientation], but we were done.  there were a few extra trays in the window that never got handed out.  i was tempted to ask if they were going to throw those away, but decided to just stick it out and wait till i got home to eat.

since i was new i didn’t really know what needed to get done,  i just stood around and looked for something to do.  i decide that maybe i should mingle a bit.  i started talking to some of the kitchen staff a bit.  turns out they are residence of the shelter. most of them are recovering addicts and have to work as part of their rehabilitation.  one of them stood next to me and started talking about the devil.  i was really confused until i realized that the tv in the corner of the dining room was playing the church service from the next room, and they were talking about the devil.  i just smiled and said something kind of complementary to his comment.  i think it was something like, “oh yeah, the devil sucks…heh”.  i’m not a religious person so i really didn’t have anything insightful to tell this guy.

a little while later another guy came up to me and ask if i was going to be ready when he came back. again, i was completely off guard, and said, “huh?” he repeated his question and was still confused and said who, “andrew  [our manager]?” the guy understandably laughed and said, “no, jesus! …andrew is small potatoes” i laughed too, because i had nothing else to say.

we were all there for different reasons.  some people needed to eat, some needed to get their lives back, and some needed to full fill obligations, and some [mostly me] had no idea why they were there.  i’ve been trying to figure it out, but nothing really makes sense to me.  i wasn’t doing it as part of a court order, or job requirement, or group event…it was just me, just something i thought to do.  it’s kind of like planning a big bike ride or a big run… i don’t know why i do it, but i know i’ll be slightly better afterward.


this is on my right forearm. this area was very sensitive, and hurt a bunch while it was getting done. this is the first tattoo in my life. i chose this location so i could see it everyday. right now i love it, and when i’m an octogenarian, it will remind me that i used to love bikes.

i have so many disfigurements from cycling, like my scars, my frost bite burns…and now finally i have a disfigurement that I made!

breaking in @ziggybeagle with the new kicks on Twitpic

everyday that i ride my bike through the outskirts of denver, my mind often wonders about the day’s events, people i know, or things i have yet to do.  it’s difficult to recall everything i think about because my mind rarely stays fixed on any one thing.  i guess this is what keeps me from getting bored day in and day out.   blindly and somewhat arrogantly i zoom along the path with my head down and sunglasses pulled tightly across my face so no one can read my thoughts.  occasionally i wave at other enthusiast, or offer a “good morning” if eye contact permits.  fortunately i have a bad memory for faces.   i’ve probably seen some of these people 20 -30 times in the past six months and our civil bonds are getting tighter… but to me, today is the first time.

although i didn’t realize it, my thoughts began to diverge about three months ago when i noticed this one inauspicious looking homeless guy on the bike  path. i guess i don’t really know for sure if he is homeless.  i can never tell if he is wearing the same clothes from day to day or not. however i do notice the same shoes.  not that wearing the same shoes everyday is an indication that someone is homeless, but his shoes were something that i noticed.  they were these light colored high top work boots they looked very rugged, practical and solid like they’ve gotten some use.  if fact this guy looked the same way.  in fact he could probably be a metaphorical clone with his boots.

this guys is always in the same 2 mile stretch of bike path.  i never see him walking, just sitting on a table staring out into the river.  i never had contact with him, only because he always seems to be looking away from me.  he seemed a little scary, but only because he was a bit weathered his spirit seemed to be broken.  i normally don’t spend time trying to figure out the life of a homeless person, but this was different since i passed him almost twice a day…everyday.  i wondered if he had just lost his job because of the bad economy, or if might have been a traveler, and this was his life, or maybe he was a man running from the law after killing his family.

the closest i ever came to having contact with this guy was when he was sitting on a picnic table next to a long stretch of bike path, i could see him watching me from the distance.  as i got closer he looked out over the river once again.  this story has no ending really.  the guy just stopped showing up after that day.  maybe he found a job, or moved on, or got caught, i’ll probably never know.

today was not a particularly difficult day at work, and when 5:30 rolled around, i was packed and ready to roll.  usually i have to peal myself away from what i’m doing and 5:30 turns to 6:00, and 6 turns to 7.  so just as i start getting ready to go, someone decides to have happy hour. count me in!

after an hour or so of non-shop top i remembered that i had rode my bike in, and it was getting late… and i had two awesome beers.  it had been a very active day that included a ride to work and a lunch race/ride.  i didn’t have much to eat except for some “munchies” and a vitamin water. so these two beers were sitting pretty well inside me when i started my journey back to the car.  i set up my lights, and stuffed my bags, and put in my buds and rode off into the dark. now that i think about it, i had my vest with me, but completely forgot about it…hmm.  i wasn’t drunk or anything, but i could feel the beer’s effect as i pedaled harder and harder.

the trail was dark and cool with the after glow of a recently full moon, and lights reflecting on the calm polluted river water.  kind of eerie but cool.  the first time i rode home on the denver bike path in the dark i was a little afraid, but tonight i was much more relaxed.  it was really nice tonight, there was a slight breeze, just enough to keep the bugs out of the air, and not enough to slow me down.  i was spinning lightly and the legs were good and the music was so appropriate.  psychedelic  sounds of the dandy warhols was just unbelievable.  i was in my own world for a brief memorable moment.

i wasn’t really thinking about anything, but i was observing everything.  that’s usually what hapens at night, the senses are higher and not too many things go unnoticed.  i could tell that my headlight were shining backwards…wait what? that wasn’t my headlight, someone was behind me. i turned back to look and could only see one really bright light. for  a moment i thought it might be the trail police [if there is such a thing] trying to catch me because i wasn’t supposed to ride the path at night.  i kind of slowed down a moved to the left to let him pass. as he passed i could see that it was in fact someone training for a triathlon, or something because they had aero bars.  this is not right i hate getting passed by anyone, especially someone with aero bars.  so i switched into a bigger gear and started my chase.

it wasn’t difficult to catch him, but after a short time at maximum lactic threshold, my beer began to work its way back out.  i had to really step it up to keep it down.  but to get dropped by aero bars?  i couldn’t let myself get dropped, and after a couple of times of nearly loosing it, i finally managed to stop thinking about my stomach and focus on the light in front of me.  i could see in the dark distance that he was looking back and trying to accelerate.  each time he looked back i would get a little further behind.  i decided to turn off my head light and ride in the pale moon light.  it worked. in just a minute or two he looked back and then started cruising.  ha ha my evil paln worked to a tee! with one little exception. now i was sprinting and i couldn’t exactly see where i was going.  nothing new for me, i often ride with faulty lighting.

finally i got close enough to him that he could see my tail lights.  by then he knew wasn’t messing with a normal person.  at the next junction, he turned off and never looked back at me.  i kept going for another mile or so at this super fast about to throw up pace.  when i finally let up, i no longer felt the effects from my beers, except for the fact that i was super thirsty.

i love riding  :)

i felt the need to race so badly after i missed the race in aspen.  the only thing going on was the boulder  short track on wednesday.  no early registration so i just drove down early  and signed up. if you’ve never done the boulder short track make sure you do it sometime before you get too old and die.  i started doing them about 7 years ago and they haven’t changed one bit. always some young people at the registration table, 10 dollar entry fee, super casual.  the race itself is something special as well.  the categories are fast faster, and fastest. i used to race the faster category a few years ago, but this day i chose the “fast”.

i was a little caution and under-confident when i started, so i sat in the back at the start. since this is basically the beginners/sport category most of the guys are not particularly strong with the technical skills.  because i was on a single speed i had two concerns; one, i needed momentum for the little hills, and two i would really have to spin to pass anyone on the flats.  i was getting kind of frustrated at first because these guys in front of me were braking all the time and putting me further and further in back of the race.  this course was like a roller coaster single track, short steep descents followed by short climbs. if you went all out on the descents you could make it to the top of the other side with hardly even pedaling.  unfortunately the guys in front of me were always breaking on the descent and killing everyone’s momentum.

i eventually learned how to race and soon found myself passing at will.  not exactly at will, but good enough that i could slowly move up in the race. i learned to back off just a bit on the descent so i didn’t have to break on the way down, and once or twice i timed it so well i passed right at the top of the climb.  i passed a couple of guys on the flats, while spinning about 150 rpms (that was tough to recover from).  i ended up about 10th out of 22, which is not horrible. i felt great and not one person passed me.

why is the ex-cyclist racing?

so i was riding along the bike path from denver to northglen …minding my own business, when suddenly this spandex wearing human billboard passed me.   i don’t usually care about people passing me but for some reason i don’t like the way this guy did it.  i had a long way to go and i was just getting started.  it had been a long day at work and had my laptop on my backpack and my two panniers filled with work cloths and rain gear.  my legs were still a little cold and i was planning a nice quiet 17.4 mile ride back to my car in northglen.    i’m not in really good shape right now, but lately i’ve been feeling really good on my bike.  so when cyclist pass each other, there is usually some etiquette that one must show when passing.   1. pass slowly,  2. give a slight wave or head gesture, and 3. if your gonna pass make sure you are faster than the person you are passing.   this guy broke all three.

this guy didn’t know who he was passing.   at least he wasn’t aware of the mental state of the person [me].  i do not like people passing me, no matter what.   i don’t care if this guy is wearing a team uniform and on a triathlon bike complete with aero bars and seat post water bottles [which he was].   as soon as he passed me  i was kind of surprised because i had looked back a while ago and didn’t see anyone.  there he was out of nowhere, in all his gear, no “hi” no “on your left”…nothing!

huh…i had two choices at that point, just ignore him, or just shift over to my big ring.  with little debate the big ring won.  i hadn’t been in my big ring that much this season, because it’s kind of early. tip:  it’s really not good to go big early in the season, especially if you are over 40.  it’s bad for your knees.  “click” i was into my big ring with hardly a noise.  it was like my bike knew ahead of time what was about to take place and shifted for me.   spandex man had a pretty good lead by now since he caught me off guard, but i could still see him on the straights.   with my head down and into my tuck, my hands in the drops, i slowly dropped the hammer.  as i looked down i could see my 45psi 700×32 cross tires digging into each corner.  i was a little worried that they would pop out of the rim.  i was also worried about my panniers falling off on some of these bumps.  i was getting a little tired and i could feel myself breathing pretty hard at this point, but everything was still under control.  then as i got a little closer, i saw him look back!  that was all i needed…. fear.  he was now worried about me, i could tell he tried to pick it up a bit.  he was now fully into his tuck.   it took me a couple of miles to get back on his wheel [i wasn’t actually on his wheel, because i didn’t want him to think he was pulling me].  he tried to keep it up for longer, but i was prepared to race all the way back to my car.  i was actually waiting for a good spot to pass him.  at this point i could tell that he was tired and starting to rest.  he would stop pedaling on occasion and that’s a sign of someone relaxing.   i didn’t want to pass him while he relaxed, even though that’s what he did to me, four miles ago.   so i just stayed behind him.  finally he got so slow that i was now getting bored.  i was just getting ready to pass him, when he slowed way down and pulled off.   that’s it, he put himself out of competition.  i gave him a wave and hammered on down the trail.  i was actually going faster than before because i didn’t want him to get any ideas of passing me again.  i went on at this pace for a few more miles and by the end…my legs were shot.  i didn’t think i could make it back to the car, i still had about five miles to go. …but i won.. and taught this guy a lesson: be careful of who you pass :)