March 15, 2017

The heart of a great mystery…

March 4, 2017


The mountains smell sweet and wild, an incense compounded of wet stone, wet amber brush, wet moss, humus, generations of pine needles…and almost unbearable lovely smell; despite the cold I pull open the window to catch it all. The rain hisses down into the black heart of a great mystery that I am on the verge of discovering. Any moment now, I am sure, it will drift in on the mountain rain, into my life.  *Rob Schultheis

LeMond. LeGend. LeGit.

February 17, 2017

Greg LeMond in the famous change room of the Roubaix velodrome after the 1991 Paris-Roubaix. Look at his eyes. This man is a million miles away. Probably trying to find the energy to chew and swallow whatever pre gel food he’s trying to get into his body after 300 odd kilometers of windswept racing and the jackhammer vibrations of the cobblestone roads that make this race so epic.

I remember the era fondly. John Tesh did the commentary for NBC Sport’s broadcast of the Tour in those years. At the time of this photo LeMond had cemented himself firmly into the pantheon of cycling myth having won the Tour de France 3 times (86, 89, 90) and the World Championships (89). He would retire only two years later after destroying his body trying to keep up to middle of the pack guys that suddenly became contenders overnight. The start of the EPO era, when several large teams instituted doping programs.

Photo by Klaas Jan van der Weij, pulled from Velominati.

Blue Collar Bike Riding

February 15, 2017

I often feel like a blue collar dude working in a white collar world. Salary or not, I’ve always felt that an hour worked is an hour paid and I’ll never really get away from feeling like that. In virtually everything I’ve ever done that 1:1 ratio holds true. There are no freebies, or, if there are, I’m not smart enough to see them. In essence, in all things, you only ever get out what you put in. And I think the sooner an individual realizes this the sooner they get their life together. It doesn’t just come to you. Same thing with bike racing. I was reminded of this through a conversation I had recently with a fellow Synergist, Joe, and an old quote came up.

“Bike racing is a blue collar sport. You’ve got to put in the time.”

I don’t know who said that. It was awhile ago, the 80’s I’m sure, as its been around at least that long.  A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer’s Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium, Joe Parkin’s awesome book of a few years ago, delved into the lifestyle behind that sentiment. The book is set in the 80’s when he went over to Belgium, one of the early Americans to do that kind of thing.

Compare this with the fact that, to the outsider, road cycling in North America has an elitist look to it. Its filtered through our culture, for sure, but a lot of the teams nowadays are sponsored by banks and white collar institutions which really contributes to this. Certainly a lot of the people that have picked up the sport post Lance Armstrong also perpetuate this. I’ve heard it said that ‘cycling is the new golf’ for the so called ‘MAMIL – Middle Aged Men in Lycra’, the demographic that essentially funds innovation (thank you!) in bike technology by throwing disposable income at carbon fiber wheels and heart-rate monitors. These things take the perception of the sport in North America away from the roots and guts that Parkin writes about.

The crux of the quote above is clear – no matter who you are you need to ride to get faster. That’s the deal. But the day to day reality of the sport is like what’s talked about in Parkin’s book. A day to day, hour to hour grind. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. A job. So its true in that sense as well. Coincidentally the act of writing is much like this. Another piece of culture that looks all fancy and white collar to the uninitiated, but is really a thing improved only ever by commitment and practice, an hour at a time.

Here’s an exercise. The next time you’re in Home Depot, or Revy, or some other place like that, keep your eyes peeled to see how many pro team sponsors you’ll see. And they’ll be European. Look for Quick Step and for Mapei, two of the more mythical teams of the last 20 years. Find others. These sponsors mirror the core of Parkin’s book and experience, as well as the heart of what’s beneath that quote and the sport itself.

I’ve appreciated that connection since I first noticed it. Mapei, the team of Paris Roubaix and the place The Lion of Flanders finished his hard-man career with is….brick laying cement. Yep. It’s perfect. All the color and flash and spectacle you see on TV is supported by brick and mortar. And that’s the point I’m trying to make here.

On that note, here’s a blue collar icon singing the song that most resembles my feeling every time I try to do an interval workout, you know, the kind where your fingertips turn white ’cause the blood won’t go there anymore?

I’m always holding on to what I got (watts), halfway there (minutes), and living on a prayer until I can finally, for f$#’s sake, stop pedaling.

The National and our Rosie Minded Fuzz.

November 26, 2016

This is a great song by a great band. Matt Beringer’s velvety smooth vocals are like drinking a pint of Guinness with your ears. It’s got a perfect cadence for running but it’s also really nice to just listen to. The crooning smoothness lulls you into thinking it’s a super chill, lie on the couch track, but the tempo makes you do this aural double take, where you’re like, “hey wait a second…”

This video is great. I love the classy and unpretentious aesthetic; these are the people you’d want to be friends with. It’s music with storytelling. The filtered sound when the band first comes on over the din of conversation, people taking notice, getting up and participating, and the wonderful bit at 2:30 with the red shoes (and calves!) that are the catalyst that instigate the life, vitality, and what becomes the overall message of the piece.

To me the video, and song, speaks to what 30-something (or 40-something) is. People chatting. There’s kids. It’s nice. But its just nice. It’s a little passive. The lyrics are about hiding out, cocooning, slowing down. “Tired and wired, we ruin too easy.” But Red Shoes changes it. Red Shoes rolls out, shakes it, and reminds us all that life is to be actively experienced. The dude at 2:38 is thinking, “Yeah. Dancing. I used to do that. Man. That was good. That felt right. Wait a sec…I can still do that. I’m so doing that.” And he does. They all do.

I love that the couple grabs hands just as the lyric says, “so worry not, all things are well, we’ll be alright” and the guy lifting the baby just after pushes it home, conveying just how alright it is. This shows us there’s room for all things. That the new life is not necessarily the death of the old one. Go ahead, cocoon, nest, stay inside that ‘rosie minded fuzz’, but don’t forget to step out and dance every now and then ’cause that’s super important too. It makes me think of the couples I know that have kids and then, a week later, are back out at bike races and 10-k fun runs with this little human in tow, a little human that’s going to grow up into an interesting and engaging world. I can’t speak of these things first hand but I know that’s what I’d shoot for if that happens. A kid reared not just by parents but by the experiences of life itself. The world, curated by a guide, is a capable and wise teacher.

Maybe that’s a lot to pull out of a four minute song, but that’s art, people. That’s supposed to happen.

And the music pendulum swings

November 7, 2016

Nice, deep house out of Germany. This stuff is just great.

It seems like there’s been a real resurgence in deep, soulful house as of late.

Ten years ago this was the type of stuff we would go dance to, but, like a lot of things that were good, you had to make that scene yourself, or dig one up somewhere. And then, like a lot of things that were good, it got more and more popular and then, eventually, the whole scene seemed to just be full of drunk party people slutting out all over the place. I’m aware that sounds pretty elitist but I watched it happen. Every album cover was some nude bimbo and the whole movement seemed to collectively shift towards the most base human experience without keeping the love, man. Gone was anything profound, let alone any moment you could call soulful or spiritual. Dance floors were filled with Jersey Shore castoffs pumping their fist in the air when the drop came and the whole thing was fueled by Red Bull. To have known it before all that, then to witness that evolution, was pretty fucking sad.

Well, it looks like the counter-culture is here and its fresh, alive, and positive. I sure like it. Check out this guy, Marlon Hoffstadt, and also the Magician, from Belgium. All of this stuff can be found on SoundCloud and you can spend days following the thread of a particular track, seeing who else has it in their set and checking out their stuff while at it.

Housey on and on.

Words as design in a once home.

October 18, 2016