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.

peace.

getting a tattoo

the day i got my tattoo coincided with the day i thought of getting a tattoo.  i actually had though of getting one before that day, but it was on the same plane as my thoughts of quitting my job and becoming a full time cyclist, or a barista at a coffee house.  in other words the thought was in my head but i didn’t think i was ever going to get one.  i am not having tattoo regrets or anything like that, i’m very much in love with my new body art.  still not sure what others truly think just yet but they will come around.

that morning started out by doing a quick google search for tattoo reviews in denver.  i found a page that had some tattoo shops listed and some stars next to their names.  one actually looked legit, and called to get their hours.  within a couple of hours i was walking through their front doors …alone.  i hadn’t told anyone what i was about to have done, so the whole mission was quite covert.  it was kind of a simple shop with a few guys working there, and most of them had lots of body art, and piercings.  they asked if i could be helped, and i replied, “yes, i’d like to get a tattoo”.

i asked if i could look at some of their portfolios that were stacked high on the counter.  their work was amazing.  there were dragons, swords, snakes, koi fish, naked women [hmm], skulls, and hot rods.  with each tattoo i looked at i tried to imagine it on me, and me at work… then me as an old man with the same tattoo.  i didn’t find anything that really fit me.

one guy asked if knew what i wanted. “yeah, i want a bike!”, i said with the tone that someone would use when talking to santa.   the guy kind of chuckled and ask if i meant a bike with pedals.

i assured him that i was indeed talking about a bicycle, a two wheeled pedal powered, chain driven, handle bar holding, seat sitting, master piece of invention.  he looked confused for a moment and went in the back and brought out doug.  i guess doug was the bike expert, or at least he rode a bike, or maybe he was just good with vague request or something.  doug asked if i had a picture or drawing that we could go with.  i didn’t really bring a picture, because my printer was not working when i left the house.  we ended up surfed their internet and quickly found the image i kind of wanted.  it was basically the “yield for bikes” road sign only doug added custom drop bars for me.

after a few iterations of size and orientation, we finally had the perfect tat.  doug had to draw things up perfectly so he could make a decal that would serve as the blue print for the ink gun.  while this was going on i sat in the back waiting room. this place was pretty nice, it reminded me of a really nice hair salon, only with reclining chair tables and no perm smell.

up to this point i was not nervous at all.  i was anxious to get started so i could get home and surprise everyone.  he finally came back and had me sit across the table and went over some simple house rules before we started.  he explained how the needles are brand new, and that they never ever reuse them. he also told me about other procedures they use insure safety. he also told me how to “tap out” if the pain gets too unbearable…. ha!  like that is going to happen, i told myself.

he shaved a bit of my arm where the tattoo was going to be, and proceeded to apply the decal.  my arm was stretched across the table and i could see the white tender part of my inner forearm stretched smooth with a bike decal stuck to it. he fired up the needle machine and went for the first poke.  it wasn’t extremely painful, but something about watching it being done, along with hearing the sound of the needle gun, some blood mixed with ink coming out…. really felt awful.  i tried to hold a normal conversation at first, but soon i was unable to focus on what i was saying , then i was unable to focus on what he was saying.  i had to close my eyes, and turn my head away from the pain, as if that was any better. i would occasionally get up enough courage to look and see how much more he had to do. i was frequently disappointed at how much more still had to be done. my god! this was taking forever.

after about 45 minutes he was finally done.  my pain quickly subsided when i saw how beautiful it looked.  i really liked it, i got up and stood in the mirror, checking it from different angles…. wow.  doug wrapped it in plastic, gave me detailed instructions on how to take care of it… and out the door i went.

it’s been over a week now and that scabbing has passed. my arm still hurts, but at this point maybe its from something else.

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!