bike or bust

The automotive industry has come to dictate the scope and scape of our present roadway systems. Whether car, truck, bus, or motorcycle these wheels and their asphalt tracks are the accepted modality of transportation, representing both speed and status. “The faster, the better” is the driver’s mantra and slowing down is not a consideration. I mean, there is no Fast, no Furious, no Vin number on the Diesel engine, without the ferocity and sex appeal of the car. You catch my hydro-plane, bro? Ahem.

Recently, however, economic recession has become interwoven into a new-age revival of a relatively modern past-time. Former car-owners reduced to the margins of transportation have come to join the “common” pedestrian in the dramatic conditions of uncovered mobility. In some strange poetic twist of fate, those previous drivers of clutch and throttle now debased to a seat-post and handlebars, are being transformed by the raw elements and direct relationship of pedal to gears as they return to the beginning of their vehicular vocabulary. Literally, it’s like riding a bike.

In a similar vein, however more viable,  of financial heartache a conscious culture with neo-modern principles  began actively identifying themselves in these margins.  Gradually gelling the human-powered traffic were all the hipsters on fixed-gear road bikes and college kids on long-boards, the bustling parents with kid-trailers, the arising scooters, the ever-present roller-Blade Runner, not to mention the cute beach girls on cruisers floating down the boulevard with flowers in their hair (who, I must add, have recently graduated to the serious ten-speed and mountain bike) . These young, athletic, good-looking urbanites grabbed the baton (or the torch!) of sustainable, healthy, common sense transit and the energetic upswing complemented the pervasive financial woes and debasement of privilege and status from Darth Driver’s Seat to Luke Sidewalker. A progressive “movement” movement enveloped this new-found, half-lane traffic as a cool, thoughtful reprieve from the hot-headed testosterone of our traffic-jammed conditions, let alone the cubicle stuffiness of these gas-fueled capsules.

Now, if I may, let me take a slight detour from fast lane to bike lane to parking lot to the parks and recreation, off the road, into the outer greenways and fields where we merge into the great out-of-bounds and step into natures wide open arena. We can immediately appreciate the multi-dimensional versatility of these unmotorized machines; light-weight, human-fueled vehicles  provide much more agility in the diverse topographies of the off-road: sidewalks, alleys, and medians, mountains, valleys, and rivers. These narrower, steeper corridors# are byways that cannot be taken without a minimalist’s approach, whereby great perspectives are achieved with a little guts and sweat. When luxury and convenience give up, labor and competence take over. Your own two pedals may not get you to the great mountain in a days time, but they will convey you to the top.

Since we’re here under the open sky and landscape, breathing in the fresh(er) outdoor air, let’s compare the two schools of thought that define alternative forms of transportation, in other words, traveling that is not in a private car. On the one hand, mass transportation is the precursor to the personalized automobile; trains, boats, ferries, planes, buses, and subways are the original engines for a mobile general public. And here, recently an explosion of self-propelled bikes and its near and distant relatives have spoken triumphantly in taking back the streets in favor of sustainable, healthy lifestyle. With mass transit you have high capacity mobility made possible by vast stretches of linear motion through mostly insipid sections of town as seen through windowscapes in boxy containers devoid of any creative direction. With self-propelled-mobility (s.p.m.) we are afforded free, uninhibited go-at-your-own-pace (albeit usually 20 mph or less) transportation given to amble broadly and curiously. And here’s where we cross the metaphorical intersection and step into the crux of my speculation.

If we draw a parallel between mainstream gyms and mass transportation, then the same between outdoor exercise and s.p.m. we arrive at the completion of my opining. The standard gym format is conducive to the fitness consumer in need of compartmentalized seating arrangements and mechanized motion devices much like a passenger of mass transportation. Whereas the paradigm shift of outdoor exercise and its fundamental proclivity to body weight-resistance is a direct corollary to the insurgent “self-propulsion” movement, free of charge and free to charge wherever and whenever, whatever.

So, the outcome is this, if you’re searching for the portal into a regularized fitness regimen, get out of your box(car) and grab the reins of your physical presence. Walk, run, bike, or put on a cape and fly, for heaven’s sake, but take control of your own direction. Light your own stage, write your own script, build your own props (they’re not free! J) but choose your own path and become one with its singularity. Unless you’re trying to put on weight, then by all means stop steering yourself apart and go sit on the bench. That’ll be $2.75. Thank you for patronizing yourself.




owls and eclipses

I’ve coarsed over many fields, under many trees, and basked in the light of many moons, enshrouded in the glory of infinite stars and planets, sometimes gaining perspective, but sometimes still not quite seeing the enormous complexion of my self-realized universe. I am a shortsighted man that tends to see too little too late. Yet for all my misgiving and mistaking I have been afforded quite propitious insights and intuitions. Some have been brutally, violent recompense- like being burnt repeatedly- and others have been uplifting and transformative, conspiring for my more intelligent nature. Leaving the former for another day, let’s climb the latter and inquire into their expression and circumstance.

Let me begin by acknowledging a quiet, secret fear I have that on any given night I may be assailed (and I have) by random strangers in a dark park. First of all, I’ve already assumed the role of the random-dude-in-a-dark-park role. I got that down locked down. A drunk partier wandering away from the crowded commotion, or a casual passerby are really merely bothersome distractions to a man exercising in the stillness of night. But a supercreeper (aka Mothman, winged ninja-type ), whose only interest is mauling me like a large cat and extracting my soul, creates an intangible (and inexhaustible) source of fear and tension, however illusory, and shades my surroundings with a supernatural intensity. But alas, no mothman, wolfman, or giant coackroach; plenty of moths and mosquitoes though (we’ll delve into the Motherman Prophecy another day). These feverish tremors have at times produced an other-worldly spiritual realm, not altogether the side-effects of an imbalanced mind, but the visions of a healthy, imaginative creature. I have felt the shadows, the peripheral flicker, unsettle these placid chambers of solitude in such a way as to create dissonance…or paranormal psychosis. However interpreted, these experiences take on their own super-reality.

Setting the stage is important here for adequately reenacting the four fortunate events that crossed my path. I’ll begin with a temperate July evening approaching dusk.  I was rounding the soccer fields of Fees Junior High in a tranquil blur when I closed in on a tetherball pole upon which an ominous object was perched. I slowed to a halt, and immediately thinking neighborhood pranksters had set a roof-mount owl on the pole, I was met with a shadowy presence that slowly turned its head to face me. Stunned, I stood still, mystified for the length of five full seconds…and then it was gone, retreating in the short distance atop a backstop, apparently uncomfortable with our proximity. As I continued running I closed in on the specter, but then again he was aloft and vanished away into the outlying abyss.

I had an encounter…of the bird kind, with a fellow nocturnal creature! And we had conversed in our own fashion. I was profoundly awake and confounded, perplexed with the purpose and/or message of such extraordinary intersections. How often do you so intimately interact with an owl? Is it merely coincidental? Yes. Is it much more than random chance? I should say so.

Roughly two years later, late at night, in the early-goings of a routine at Carminati Elementary, my route was again interrupted by a loud, swooping motion that ripped through the static of the night shadows stealing my attention and scattering my focus. Descending on the four-square courts, partially illuminated by the school’s flood lights, the mysterious phantom was enshrouded with all sorts of allures, but as the dramatic back lights faded I could rightly see my owl comrade-in-wings again manifested. I froze up, again, as he suddenly swooped low across the concrete at an angle nearer to me. I was overcome with awe…and intrigue. My breathing pulsed steadily and my hair stood on end. I was in a state of shock! I was paralyzed as he paused briefly and then fled to a leafless tree a short ways off.

I attempted to collect myself and establish a degree of “normalcy” between us, albeit improbable at this heightened state. After some continued exercise my curiosity overcame me and I was compelled to approach the tree of which I had been keeping steady surveillance. As I closed in on the veiled perch I became increasingly aware of the absence of my sinister sentinel. He had slipped away without notice, but his hallowed hex was branded into my psyche.

Now, let’s look through and beyond the owl toward the moon. In my sociological and philosophical wondering I have often marveled at the ingenuity and will of primitive man in overcoming enormous obstacles (e.g. vast oceans, sheer mountains, uninhabitable valleys). Then I stop to consider the awe and insignificance he must feel when confronted with incredible natural upheavals or dramatic moments of celestial coincidence and connectivity, when man and nature are riveted simultaneously, his pedantic plight sidelined in these larger-than-life events.

I was headed to work in the quiet hours before sunrise when I looked to the western horizon and beheld the moon descending whose fullness, so colossal, it created a vacuous energy field attracting all available awareness and elevating it into a frenzy. I turned my eyes to it, repeatedly, and bathed in its heavenly niche. Inexplicably, darkness slowly swept across the face of the sphere at an alarming rate. I couldn’t wrest my eyes from the display, and so, within a span of a few short seconds, the moon passed from luminous bulb to an occluded orb, shaded into the fabric of outer space. I witnessed a lunar eclipse! It may not be a spine-chilling supernatural experience, but unwitting, as with a primitive subjectivity without foreknowledge of such an event, I became charged with a child-like bewilderment. It felt as if the sky had winked at me!

By the time I arrived at work there were numerous FB posts declaring the wonderful (one-derful?!) awesomeness of this planetary synchronicity. I could certainly bear witness to its emotional magnitude, but my experience was vivified with an occultic tilt, a Druidian dalliance, connecting a man with his personal universe in the fervent womb of the unknowing. It was as if everyone else arrived at the Grand Canyon to take touristy pictures and shop for postcards while I drove off the cliff and fell through a fate more real and alive in its temporary insanity of disbelief and surrealism, a veritable spiritual transformation.

I think of this eclipse for all the people who “sleep” through it (as I almost did), and of the drivers removed from the opportunity to look off the road (or through their MOONroof) and participate in the spectacle, and realize my unique position to this particular moon (e.g. up early, on a bicycle, conscious enough to see the bulging moon and become fixated on it). The moon and I shared something, a harmonic relationship, locked in a profound perception. Amazement! One-der?

Months later, in mid-June,  as I walked up the slope of A Mountain (it’s more than “a mountain”) with my two and four-year-old we noticed un unusual buildup of activity near the top for such a particularly hot summer evening, coupled with an army of cameras, many of which seemed professional. Taking a rest at the level mount before the final ascent where the large majority of people had congregated, we learned quickly that a solar eclipse was coming shortly and would be visible to the naked eye, but NOT to look at it. So I, of course, turn immediately and look directly at it, seeing vaguely the image of a Pac-Man shape. My girls got a kick out of using the special solar glasses that were for sale by a few smart entrepreneurs mingling at the hot-spot while I stood back and pondered this full-circle of synchronicity that convincingly landed right on top of me.

There is much greatness floating all around us and we very often miss it altogether, or dismiss it as “coincidence”. However, when we allow the mystery that is immutable and infinite to creep into our imagination, there is much glory and strength that comes from elevating curiosity into inquiry. Divest those veils that separate you from nature and all of its magnificent stillness and self-reflection. We are meant for greatness by virtue of our individualism, which is freely felt when we choose a road less traveled. You never know what’s waiting for you until you rise up to meet it.