Strange thing happened on the way to the forum, I went through old bike-related bookmarks and realized a few different realizations...
1. Many people who once blogged are no longer.
2. Some people -however- are still blogging (are still blogging) about the same stuff (as in, Same Tired Shit, kinda stuff).
3. A few of those same people who are still blogging aren't blogging about the STS (refer to above) because they have moved away from bikes and on into something else.
4. Nearly every blogger -who is still blogging about the STS (refer to above above)- has removed this here blog from their blog links.
5. I don't know why #4 occurred but I do know that I ebb & flow with regard to 'Talking' about bicycles. I love to think and ride them, talk--not so much. One exception being--I'll talk for years to the uninitiated about Bicycles (because that seems sorta important to my brain).
These days you can get bad news --or good news for that matter [but it usually isn't]-- in the blink of an eye. Could be the phone [but not often], could be via email but mostly it's through the pipeline of either Facebook or Twitter. It's all speed-of-sound that feeds the glutinous appetite of a world that, Knew about it Yesterday .
In the thick Army-issue wool blanket of endless updates ranging from the mundane to the, well, mundane hardly anything can snap you out of the stupor of short-attention-span theatre brought to you by the So-The-Fuck-What? attitude that is social networking. But just every so often something does. And it did for me the other day.
Hurl is closing shop. And Hurl is the proprietor of Cars R Coffins. And Cars R Coffins, besides living a half life as a t-shirt, sticker or patch on the ass, toptube or messenger bag of some Fixie ne'er-do-well, was a coffee shop.
But to marginalize or reduce something that shone so bright to me as mere coffee shop is akin to a headstone of a loved one reading, They was Loved. It's not enough. It's not enough because CRC was a Hang [yep, uppercase that H] and a Scene luxe.
Coffee shops serve coffee and the patrons have to make it into something more, something significant, something that is by proxy jive, boring and elitist not to mention uninviting as a convention by Secret Handshake Only. And while CRC's regulars did not do that, and in fact made it a hub for friendship bordering on pure family, I would strongly opine that it still wouldn't have amounted to much more than --a little different-- if it had not been for its founder.
CRC was, is and always will be a big deal to me and my family.
Outside of Bob Brown, the only person we knew at the time of our relocation from the NYC area to the Twin Cities, the first person I actually pressed palms with was Hurl, and it took place within the confines of Cars R Coffins itself.
A move that was exhausting in all ways. Half our shit stuffed into a spur-of-the-moment, holy-shit-we-almost-flipped-the-truck [because the idiot guys we hired to load it overloaded it] rental garage in the middle of Nowhere Pennsylvania [our car included too] that left us reeling when we first arrived in the Land of 10 Bijillion Lakes.
Bob takes me into CRC to, Meet this guy... and so I can get two coffees, one for me and one for my still sleeping wife back in Bob's house in Saint Paul, and a juice for -also sleeping- Chloe.
A guy stands behind the counter and says hi to Bob and then Bob looks at him, me, and back to him.
Hey Hurl. This is the Large Fella, Scott Cutshall.
Hand out, my hand out too. Hi nice to meet you, I've read your blog I think. He's looking nearly as splonked as me.
And that was that.
A few days later...
Our first bike ride, the day after we moved into our first place in St. Paul [before we found a better located place in Minneapolis], was to CRC for coffee for Amy and me, and another fruit juice for Chloe. And we never stopped going. Nearly everyday in fact.
Chloe got her first, Big Girl, bike there [a Schwinn Corvette]. And even though she basically couldn't straddle it, It came from Hurl I can handle it, she would say time and time again after falling over nearly each time she had to stop at an intersection.
These days she rides a Surly Long Haul Trucker [which Hurl helped procure for her] and after having topped out at 4,912 for mileage in 2010 still says she owes it all to, Hurl.
Riding through the long and deep winter that year I worked out a doable loop from our house in the Seward neighborhood. The halfway point was always CRC. Bike in rack, inside for a coffee and some words, swap chemical warmers, and go.
My interview for the Star Tribune newspaper [which first outed my story to the press and people, and for occasionally better but mostly worse] took place at Hurl's coffee and sticker haven.
Eventually Amy and me wanted to have some folks by. Once we felt like we had the house set up enough to not put forth the notion we were slobbing vagabonds who posed as decent humans we planned a Pizza Night where I would scratch make a dozen or so pizzas and entertain some of our new & closest friends. Looking back, it's interesting to note that besides Bob Brown every person there was from having first met them at CRC... including both Hurl and his sig other, Kelly.
Hurl and me have much in common it seems. He'd rightfully disagree but I would argue that what we share is a fairly astute brain in a world of people who we have to, said nicely, suffer with a smirk on our faces. So much in fact I wanted him to be a subject for a long-planned but short-lived series of interviews I intended to conduct called, People I Find Interesting [or PIFI for short]... he participated, Hurl & The CRC PIFI Interview.
Nearing the end of our stay in Minneapolis, after having set into motion the plan to leave for a rainy, damp, gray life in Portland, Oregon, the last place, on our final night in Minneapolis, all three of us stopped before we left town was, yep, CRC. In a darkened parking lot behind the building that had become our home away from home we hugged, laughed, and tried our best to not let Hurl & Co. see what was welling up in our eyes and down our faces.
I visited this past summer. A trip to see Bob and everyone and to attend the FreeRide... and I went to CRC twice during that short trip. And it was good...
...and felt like home,
but here's the crux and juice of it all for me:
I'll miss knowing that if and when we ever return to Minneapolis CRC will not be there as destination/hang/haven or clique for me -and us- on our rides. And that's a gray thing. It's gray because only ever so seldom does your world collide so perfectly with someone or something elses and you can't take that kind of thing for granted. I know I don't, didn't and never have.
No, Minneapolis will never be three numbers for us...
It's January 1st, it's a new year, it's 2011... so what.
It's just a day.
It's, if one checks the calendar, a Saturday.
It's, if one does the math on varying amounts of Daylight Savings Time over the years [since Man, himself, enacted such things], technically not even January 1st, not 2011, nor even a Saturday [that's a guess though... and I am too tired to spend the time figuring out how to figure that one out & double check my suspicion--I asked Amy about this, she looked at me sort of cross-eyed and said, "Jesus, Scott, I have no idea... don't ask me questions like that after I worked 13 hours of Call at the hospital"... so, again, I am not so sure].
Sure, I can dig why folks look to days like today for new beginnings and the like, but truthfully, they never work... and I assume they never work because this day, today, would happen regardless of my, your or any ones involvement in it. Today, like all other days, doesn't really give a shit what you do with it... it's going to start [and end] whether you change or not. Days are like this. January 1st -also- does not care what you impose on it because it's just a man-made date like all the rest of the days of the year. **Note: what the fuck is a year anyway?**
Now, how about January 1st as a new & clean slate from which to work?
That one is better to my mind.
Wiping off the proverbial chalkboard is a nice idea: start fresh, reconnoiter the confusing equation[s], take a new/better look at how to get shit right. That seems sound & rational.
But! ...the rub is always the same: these things always begin with a thought, and while thoughts are good, thoughts are usually the easiest part of change.
Put another way: change is work, work is earned, whereas a day is not.
Years ago I read somewhere that humans can change almost anything... for 3 days to 3 weeks, after that though it's "99% fail or bail" [okay, I am full of shit--it's my theory]. And it's true, change is easy [I've found] when one of two similar things go down...
1. Nothing pushes back against that Change [thus challenging it/you/the momentum of it]
2. It's new & fresh [those first 48 hours... or, once the crest has been summited: past 3 weeks].
Said another way: How easy is getting up early when one doesn't need to [for work -money- versus for changing -improving- Self]?, or How easy is it to not drink booze when alone versus at a party where all are imbibing?, or riding ones bike everyday regardless of weather, with no friends, and with no actual destination [work/errands]?, or working on their anger when not being challenged into a situation of anger?... it's like I tell Chloe often, "To change is hard, but to take stock of the progress of your change, well you've got to throw yourself into the worse case scenario of what it is you're trying to affect that change within & upon"... and a great but endless, wonderful but hard-ass, road to change it is. Add age/years to what it is you're trying to change, and man oh man, it's like climbing K2 naked in a total whiteout without any sherpas nearby.
Obviously, we can elect to change at any hour of any day within any month... but tradition typically elects that day to begin on the first day of the new year. And as a sidebar to the nebulous idea of Change & Resolutions: another I tell myself often [so much so, I don't really ever say it to myself per se, having made it more into a part of me that's just there, inside me, as fact], and from time to time, my daughter: 'I don't really care about what anyone intends to do as much as I care about what they are doing'. Said differently, speaking of ones resolution disempowers it greatly. If it's important, and change is always important, then it really stays strong, pure & crystalline when it's kept inside versus Twittering or FaceBooking it out to 15 thousand people.
I, being I, find that things that most like, what I call The Popular, repulse me... so therefore I would never, personally as a point of being profoundly "Scott", never go the easiest, typical, predictable route: i.e. I'd never change a damn thing on New Year's. No, it's too base, not worth my time and frankly if I've got something big to undo and redo, I ain't having it tagged in with a zillion other people trying to change up their shit too. No way, Jose. Change is big, it's epic, it needs protecting... it cannot be exposed, similar to an infant, until it is strong, reliably mobile, and able to withstand the punishments of the outside world. Anything less than that is unfair to the act of Change... really, anything less is bullshit, jive & just more words to fill up a world already overfilled with hollow words.
For me, I picked Thanksgiving Day for change... and not for the reasons most might think either [I won't go into why other than to leave it with... personal metaphor].
I'll shutup after this:
The other reason people falter is this, Tradition & Traditions [at least I know I did for years because of it].
If the one day that many out their voice on what it is they are about to embark on to change, and it's also a tradition to say it that particular day, and that day is also widely accepted as the day to do such, well, 2+2... [it's the same -as above- with booze/parties, food/holidays & for the angry person: quelling that anger when not in an angered situation, etc... there is no real test for the testing of it, it gets canceled out].
So, what are my resolutions for '011?
I have none, and even if I did...
I wouldn't tell.
But I don't have any [at least on this day, for chrissake].
As a dad, as a husband, as a friend, as a person, as a human: I try to impart the best of me toward understanding of many differing things. I think it's one of those things that we, as folks, can do that for the most part differs us from other cell-based lifeforms.
For years I have been telling my daughter, Chloe [and from time to time, my wife, Amy] about the metaphors I have come to learn through a lot of bicycling.
Things like, "Action/Reaction... how that glorious tailwind will turn tail on you and make you pay on the way back home" or "Dividends... how that one big nasty hill that you so despise, really becomes a 'friend' when you encounter an even bigger, nastier, hill in another location on another day" or "Facing Down... how when on those many times you think you cannot do it, or would rather being doing anything but this, you come to realize that amazing sense of self-reliance & just plain old Self that comes from persevering through whatever it is that feels un-doable"... and the actual list is much, much, longer truthfully.
"A thing, or tool, or Bike, or body that isn't needing much in the way of maintenance is -after years of thinking on such things- something not really in that great of shape after all, but instead something that hasn't enjoyed Purpose & Usefulness" [I tell Chloe that one often]... or just the plain & simple: "If you use it, love it, grind on it, it will need care & attention... and if you aren't attentive to its needs, it won't be there for you when you desire it" [as basic as bike care, as complex as Love].
Just a few months back I had the chance to see a great old friend/mentor. This guy is a legend in Jazz. He has played, toured, recorded with names known the world over... these days he is still out there, on the road-in the studios getting it done. Back when I was a musician, I played/recorded/gigged with him... but that was many moons past for me. 100 moons past.
Getting to see him here in Portland was a sort of amazing and odd homecoming for me. You see, when I had last seen him it was also the time I last played with him, and it was the last & final time I played music at all, period. 2 weeks after that gig [in NYC at the Knitting Factory] Chloe was born and I quit music [and to a degree, life]. So seeing him this part October was a big deal to me... a huge deal.
Beyond the weird opening where he didn't know who I was [but once I said his name, he recognized my voice thus recognizing me] it was fantastic in all ways.
After catching up for a bit, and then he getting reacquainted with Amy and getting to meet Chloe for the first time since he had last seen her [as a large bump in Amy's belly at that final gig in September of 1999 in NYC, and then Chloe was born 8 days later], he asked me an amazingly honest & blunt question, "Bro, gotta ask... how do you do it? You know, the music? The creation of it? The creativity... don't you miss The Creativity?"
Caught completely off-guard by the question, I responded without thought or ponderance, "Lieb, yeah... well, when I ride there's much to think about, reconstruct differently, perfectly, in one's mind. Plus, there are the little things on a base technical level."
He continued with, "How so?"
I ended with the only thought I could, "Well, it's not the same of course. How could it be? But, truthfully, there are parallels... things like the way you can work on cadence, or pedal stroke, you know the woodshed stuff. And toward that beautiful, sweeping, wave you get when all cylinders click as one on the bandstand or in the studio with your brothers, well that's very much like not thinking at all during a ride where you & the bike meld into a single entity and you just flow."
He didn't buy it for a second, but he listened and considered it.
Looking back at him and his expression, I am not sure I did either.
Of course it is very different: riding a bike and creating music on the fly... but there are similarities, if you look deep enough.
If you have to look because it's what you've been given without choice or option.
A lot of bad out there, but there's a lot of good too.
Tons of loneliness & pain, also though... there's much hope intertwined together.
People are trying, and some aren't.
Big plans never get off the ground while small ideas sprout into huge trees of change.
I tell folks, but mainly Chloe [because she's young enough, not jaded, not peeved, not willing to give into the ways of most adults], "You keep going & pushing, you stay honest and straight on your path in your heart & brain, you keep seeing all the good while taking in the bad in a way that lets you recall it for change & hope... and you'll make your place in this world."
I, sometimes, forget my own words though so it's good to have a smart, young, honest, fearless daughter: they remind you of what you once said. It's good.
Life gets lonely... I have friends who have lost people, I have lost people, but mostly they, me, probably You... well, we try our best to carry on through the darkness.
On this, the Eve of Christmas 2010 [all of ours, our last one, we will never get another for 2010, maybe try and remember that], I am reminded of many memories: my childhood, the little thoughts [like sleeplessness, that kind of excitement that exceeds word or sense, that need to Know and Experience something huge]... and the call for yearning, for doing better. Always, Better.
I miss too much to list, I will miss much from today & tomorrow by next year, I am already & set to begin missing next year & the year after that too... it's our nature: re-call is only so big [be it both: thankfully, & sadly to our detriment].
I don't look forward to bought-gifts any longer... it's different for me at 47 years old these days. No, I look forward to watching those I love, those I know, those I don't know yet, smile. I look forward to experiences and then, someday, the dusty-but always amazing, memories.
I am shooting for something here, right now, within these words I am typing, and as usual I am missing my mark, but I am trying... maybe it will resonate, maybe not.
Maybe it's The Gift? The Gift is maybe just that: The Memories, The Experiences, The Love & Smiles?
I didn't nail it, I tried, sorry.
Here's one though:
I am always trying for something better, and I hope all of you are too. If we all do, together, something great is going to happen and then... we all have it, the experience-together: as One.
After packing away BBC#1 this past summer [reason, photos, etc... all Here] and building up a Rivendell Bleriot [documented Here] and realizing that it might be a little big'gish [or that its geometry isn't a perfect fit... without getting too technical: I might be favoring higher BB's these days -but that's a boring thing to talk about so... ] for me, I just kept riding what came into my life back in Jan. of this year:
...a Surly Pugsley.
I bought the bike from a fella here in Portland, right after I had finally Man-Up'd and had one of the final remnants of my Big-Days erased: my umbilical hernia repaired, in early January. He had bought and built it up during the Fall of 2009 with the hopes for grand adventures & such only to realize that thinking a thought is different from doing a thought.
I began riding it to Amy's abject horror while I still had a nice line of sutures in my abdomen. She feared the bike's size would be my -and the surgeons- undoing. I survived, sort of...
...I rode a bit too hard [and landed in the ER for not so much ripping the sutures open as stretching them back-n-forth and bleeding out from my abdomen].
The Pug, to my mind, is pretty near a perfect vehicle. Sure, it's a self-limiting kind of deal that says to its rider: "So, your legs feel pretty great today huh?" as you approach hills with nimble legs & thoughts of speed while climbing... but the Pug's answer is always the same when you climb, "Fuck You: not today, not ever" and that's fine. It's fine because a bike, any bike, that makes its built-in bookends so clearly defined, well you have to laugh to yourself while respecting those bookends vastly. I like that in bikes, I like that in people: What you see is precisely what you get, period.
So why do I ride it? ...and where?
2nd part 1st, 1st part 2nd...
It does anything any other bike does, and mostly it does it way better than any other bike. Maybe, it does one thing worse than any other bike [but I don't really think so]... climbs. Hey, I've had full groceries + Chloe on the Big Dummy, and that pup is S L O W, and while that's reasonable, it -also- feels really S L O W...
The Pug, on the other hand, with full groceries [and minus the child, of course... no real way to get her on-board with me + these days Chloe doesn't really want towed anywhere any longer] is S L O W but feels monstrous in what it's capable of... sort of like driving an Abrams tank through a K-Mart parking lot: It isn't doing its intended thing, but damn, I could inflict a world of hurt on all these cookie-cutter mini vans if I desired, and it still gets me around to boot.
I've ridden it into Malls [funny, people loved it, security didn't]; I've ridden it in snow [duh]; I've ridden it into one entrance of a supermarket -straight through the supermarket- and out the other side [felt wonderful, plush, comfy... sure it scared the living shit out of a few folks but I would guess it gave them something to talk about later that evening once home]; I've ridden up & down stairs; I've ridden it up & down steep hills [again, it tells you how to ride it with no further discussion options available]; and I've ridden along, and then into, the Willamette River [didn't float, wasn't overly great on the drive train, but the Pug -and- me, we both survived].
Oh, and I've ridden it from central Oregon to the California border on mostly the beach [and a little highway-when the beach simply wasn't there anymore]...
...with Chloe & Amy meeting me, 240 miles & two days, later:
The Pug is my new favorite bike indeed.
Plus, you have to love a bike that simultaneously stimulates the curiosity and ire of Racing Snob wannabes; is a favorite among the insane & homeless: all curious about the Pug as I roll by while they go about their business residing under bridges/masturbating while sitting on park benches/etc; invites Crystal Meth heads to smile when they encounter me & the Pug out tooling along the Springwater Trail; and forces city bus drivers to launch into "Keep motorcycles out of the GAWDDAMN bus lane buddy!" on nearly every ride...
not to mention -apparently- drives every individual to ask the same two questions: