January is Warm–and Arty

I rode Green Mountain yesterday around sunset–it was 68 degrees in Denver, which is absolutely nuts–and found myself viewing every panorama as contemporary art. Seems like I saw some Pollock on the trail, some Warhol in the parking lot, some Dali in the sky.

Maybe I’m art-obsessed because I’ll be giving a talk entitled “Deconstructed Mountain Biking” at Denver Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Mixed Taste–On Ice” lecture series this February 18. The web site says it’s sold out, but I don’t believe it–if it is, it’s due to my partner’s lecture topic. He’ll be talking about Frank Lloyd Wright, which is wonderful because I love Frank Lloyd Wright, and used to live down the street from one of his houses in Buffalo, New York. One of my cousins currently lives directly adjacent to the Darwin Martin House.

Here’s some photo-mountain-biking-Jackson-Pollock for ya, which I’m calling “Pollock In Weeds”:

And here’s a shot of the sunset.

Garaging. Not Good.

This, from the department of self-disclosing dumb things I have done.

For a while I had the habit of placing my bikes on top of the car in the Thule/Rocky Mounts/Yakima rack, and then forgetting that there was, in fact, a bike up there.

You can guess what happened next.

A few years ago, at a local bike shop, when I took my mountain bike in after the headset cracked on a downhill while riding, the guy asked me if I’d hucked the bike off a 10 foot drop or something.

“Uh, no,” I said, “Never.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Well, there’s really no other way this could happen. Except for one thing.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Smashed it against the top of your garage because you forgot it was up there on your car.”

“Oh,” I said. I’d been outed.

He took one look at my guilty expression. “You garaged it, didn’t you.”

“Yeah, I did. I garaged it,” I said.

My riding buddy Ed says that it’s acceptable for every person to garage their bike. Once. After that, he says, you have a stupidity problem.

Over the years, I have garaged several bikes. Several times each. I’ve broken a frame, horribly dented and scratched the roof of the car, bent racks beyond repair, and ruined a seat. It’s gotten to the point where I hide the garage door opener in the glove compartment as soon as I strap the bike onto the rack. Or I stand the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the garage, so I can’t pull in. And then, hours later when I open the door, I’m like, who put the damn vacuum cleaner right in the middle of the garage?

Maybe I have a stupidity problem. (I see you, dear friends, nodding in agreement.) I blame the fact that I smoked pot all through my freshman year in high school. Killed lots and lots of brain cells, I did, walking the streets of my hometown, listening to The Doors, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin on a gigantic boom box that my stoner friends and I took turns carrying.

Whatever the reason, I have often found myself in space cadet land, forgetting all about that very expensive apparatus on top of the car. Therefore, I must protect my self from myself.

Funny, how that goes.

PS. In below pic, you can see the tell-tale signs of garaging: several deep marks where the handlebars smashed into the siding.

Is This Going to Live Forever?

No riding today: blah gray sky, melting snow. The trails are probably total muck. (I am going to overhaul my Mavic rear hub and go for a road ride, though. Wish me luck.)

In the meantime I’ve been lying around reading the New York Times Magazine from last Sunday–specifically the article “Things To Do in Cyberspace When You’re Dead.” (It’s either that or watch an NFL playoff game, or clean the garage.)

The article asks the fascinating question: what happens to our digital lives when we die?

I know: how macabre, sordid and depressing. And not related to biking.

But still, I wonder: what will happen if I keep writing this blog–a kind of focused recollection of my life–until I die? (At the age of 113, I hope. Hayzeus, this post is getting weird, bringing me down, man.) Who will own it? Would it be important for someone to keep it intact or should it be left alone, and someday forgotten forever?

And if this blog thing–for me, for anyone–is a kind of memoir, is the future of memoir and life story not narrative-based, but technological? I can see it now: I wrote my memoir on FaceBook, Twitter, with images on Flickr and Vimeo and such. My tax returns can be found on irs.gov, and my doctor’s reports are on the XYZ Health Plan website. You can buy my book, which is not a book, per se, but actually a program that sucks up all this information and posits it in a PowerPoint in date order. Enjoy!)

Surely we are not at that place yet, and yet as I contemplate my life via biking, which is my current-life memoir, to be sure, I see the truth of it. I don’t have to write a book. I am writing it now. And it may even last forever. Each ride, each musing, each image of trail and rock, trees and sun. (With or without readers, which is the writer’s most true question, isn’t it?)

PS: For some reason this song is blowing through my mind. I guess it’s that one line: Is anybody out there?

After Biking Up the Mountain

A cold snow is flurrying down this morning and it seems like a dream that I rode yesterday for over two hours, up the long trail of Mount Falcon, in the sun, along mostly dry trails, occasionally over long stretches of crunchy dry snow.

It seems almost surreal to have done that in January, as if I were in a waking dream, running against the laws of nature. And when I dreamed last night, I was biking, and then I made my way home on the bike to encounter my family playing a game in the living room, and my grandmother (gone three years now) folding laundry–brilliant white towels–in the garage, of all places. And when a tornado siren went off and the clouds began to swirl–still the sun burned brightly along the horizon, like it did yesterday as I rode–we collected in the basement. The game (I think it was checkers, but the image is unclear) kept on. My eldest daughter and I hunkered down by the basement stairs and listened for signs of our neighborhood’s dismantlement. But the giant gray-black tails curled high in the air, and kept on their way to the east, sparing us.

Somehow this dream recalled for me Robert Frost’s poem, “After Apple Picking.” The languid, almost sleepy tone and soft rhymes are very much like the ease I felt in the dream, and the ease I felt while riding yesterday. I was fully in the moment, a little weary and sentimental, in love with the slow repetitive action and the gentle feeling that such a task (riding, apple picking) will soon be going into hibernation, which is a very long sleep indeed.

At any rate, here is the poem.

AFTER APPLE PICKING
–Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

(1914)

And here are a few images from yesterday.

A shaded section of the trail, about two-thirds of the way up. Gentle, smooth pedaling was all that was needed to keep cranking on the snow.

High up at the peak of the trail, on a rocky ridge, John Brisben Walker–who once owned the entire area–had wanted to build a summer home for the U.S. Presidents, but  never got any further than laying the foundation and cornerstone, which you can see in the above pic. (Behind the cornerstone is a very steep drop, and in the distance you can see the snowy summit of Mount Evans.)

Here’s what the summer home was supposed to look like:

01.01.11

Welcome to the new year, all cold and white, finally. Riding on this day isn’t possible. Being outdoors is possible only in small tokens of time (it’s 7 degrees here in Denver as I write), and so for a while, each day of the new year will now be spent under a roof, breathing artificially warmed air.

On holiday weekends like this, it seems like time slows down and opens up, while doors and windows are closed and sunlight is fleeting and cool. There is much to do–things that were forgotten, or put off–and suddenly there is time to do it.

I have cleaned the cupboards, finished some of the touches on my old ten-speeder from high school, converting it into a single speed cruiser. I have reorganized the pantry, the front closet, my dayplanner. I’m almost done with a book that I got as a Christmas gift. I have plans to tackle and reorganize the gigantic pile of toys in the basement. Maybe tomorrow, after I take my kids sledding.

Riding takes time, and in reality, it’s a fruitless endeavor. You bust your lungs and still you end up getting nowhere. You end where you started, having blown away several hours. (It’s kind of like writing poetry, my other passion–it produces no money, no progress, no tangible social value.)

But then again, there is great power and redemption in such actions. The exertion. The focus. The fear and the thrill. It’s the way we become more human, perhaps. By challenging ourselves, by sacrificing: blood, energy, water, time, money. Or maybe it’s the way we engage our animal natures. Outside, moving hard and fast, full of fear and adrenaline, never giving up.

Perhaps that’s what makes humans so interesting–these dual natures in their everyday ebb and flow.

P.S. Here’s a pic of the new bike.