I ain’t fast, suck at hills, don’t have a ton of followers, or a fancy bike, but I git ‘er done. Different parts hurt and I’m plum tuckered out most days. So mebbe a forced break’s a-comin’. Or mebbe not. I Just Keep Pedalin’.
Thing is, I didn’t plan on this streak. I just one day realized that if I rode a little bit every day, it might be easier than a long ride every few days. And like my other streaks (yoga for 7+ years and walking, writing and virtually no flour each for 3+ years), at some point, a little voice started saying “Don’t Break The Chain.” It’s a little phrase attributed to Jerry Seinfeld writing jokes every day for a year, which he said wasn’t true. But it’s still a good handle for a challenge.
In a world where half a million Americans have now died of COVID-19, millions of Texans were without power for most of a week during the bitter cold snow and ice storm, and some still have no water or water damage. Plenty of other injustice continues: price gouging, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, unemployment, poverty, and climate change just to name a few. I know it really matters very little what one zaftig mid-aged bicycle dude in Austin did in his bike. Yet, life goes on. Content must be created, stories must be told, and horns must be tooted. So since you’re here, it’s like the Buddhist path: once started, may as well finish.
After revisiting winter as a metaphor with my last post, I’m feeling a bit poetic. My first attempt at poetry (in this blog — I wrote plenty of sappy rhymes in my school days) was a tribute to nature titled Poem: Word to Your Mother (Earth). The second one was called Verisimilitude: Leap Day Twenty Twenty Poem; it dealt with a day in the life and went a little into politics including the environment. In case you missed them, or have forgotten, enjoy. As for today’s words, they’re about the longest period of subfreezing weather in Texas for a long time and the third heaviest snowstorm ever, resulting in power outages and water line breaks for millions across the state and many here in Austin. In fact, there’s an Austin water crew digging up the street to fix a leak as I write. This poem is also about life, politics and nature; I’m beginning to see a theme.
What does nature and political poetry have to do with pedaling a bike? As always, I think the best weapon against climate change is the bicycle. It was warm enough today I went out for a 10-mile ride. If it’s cold where you are but you’re brave and layered up enough, be safe out there. Or if you have one, get on your stationery bike or put your bike on a home trainer like I did the last few days. And if you’re amongst the hoi polloi, well, I doubt you’re reading this dude’s blog, but if so, have fun on your Peloton. We don’t judge. But before your pedaling, or after, here’s my poem. I don’t claim to be a good poet, but it’s like art: I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like. Hey, I’m no Ralph Waldo Emersonor Mary Oliver. I hope you like it.
A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?
Hot it’s not. Hotter than hell would be swell right about now. Because here in Central Texas the Valentine’s / Presidents Day cold front is a weeklong blast that has 2 million people statewide without electricity. Like much of the US, we’ve suffering through an Arctic weather pattern that is so cold (how cold IS it?) that temperatures are below what it normally is in Anchorage, Alaska. It was forecast to be 5 degrees F tonight, and we got our first ever Wind Chill Warning, meaning it could feel like under 0. This was the third heaviest snowfall ever and the most since 1949. Over 6 feet fell at the main weather station, though where I stay was not as much, but it was plenty. Except for my year in New England, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen. The roads are not safe, and most everything is shut down for several days. But today the sun came out, and I’m still A Dude Abikes, so I went out on a wobbly, wandering walk, and later a short, slushy, and slow bike ride.
Someone asked me this, and I think it’s a good question. I don’t think about it much, and the answer(s) aren’t necessarily earth-shattering. But I may as well give it a shot. I also want to try to write 500 words in 30 minutes again, so this will probably be a list article. I’m allowed a listicle once in a while, especially in winter, right? Yes. Read on, won’t you please?
It’s that time of the month, again. The 11th, that is, which is when I began biking every single day back in October of 2019. For some reason, I cain’t quit you, bicycling. That streak will be tested Monday, when we might see the coldest temperatures in a decade and three to five inches of snow — in Austin, Texas. I may have to pull out the old metal home trainer stand and do my 14.3 miles* in the relative warmth of the inside. I say relative because this house leaks air like the White House press office, and the space heaters can’t keep up. Anyway, the miles add up, although at a slower pace than last year. That’s thanks to having a smaller goal, a niggling injury, and my old frequent friend, fatigue. Plus, the cold does slow one down. Don’t get me started on how my body seems unable to handle cold very well anymore, for whatever mysterious reason. Still, I bike, because, well, you know: a dude abikes.
Super Bowl LV (55, which like singer Mr. SamuelHagar, I cannot drive) happened, and I watched almost all of it. I missed some of the first quarter because I was out riding my bicycle. Usually I don’t bother to watch millionaires try to knock the tar and feathers out of each other, but since I’m biking less I had the time and heard it would be a good game, I tuned in. Love him or hate him (this article explains why), it seems pretty clear to me that with more Super Bowl wins than anyone else including his former team, Thomas “Tom”Edward Patrick Brady Jr. truly is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) quarterback of professional American footballer. It’s good to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan right now; not so much for the New England Patriots.
As it relates to this blog, it turns out he also rides a bike: He does a charity bike event every year for folks with disabilities, the Best Buddies Challenge. Also, he rides around town with his wife, a kid on the back, or his dog in a basket on the front.or alongside on a leash. He’s even taken teammates on mountain bike trips to Montana. So what can mere mortals like you and I learn from an elite athlete like him? Let’s see.
It’s taken me a good while to get to this point, but I’ve finally done it: I printed out Chapter 1 of my book to give to a beta reader. Of course they weren’t there went I went to drop it off, so I’ll do that tomorrow. And I’m working out getting an electronic copy to my first victim I mean volunteer who is out of town. Just today, a third person offered to read it. So the ball is rolling, wheels are in motion, the train is leaving the station… insert other clichés (which a good writer knows to avoid). Anyway, Sorryless wanted updates, and as my steadfastest reader and mostest commenter, I want to keep him happy.
January 2021 was a challenging month for the USA. After the worst attack on democracy since the war of 1812, we finally got rid of the old neo-fascist, proto-racist, fake billionaire POTUS #45. And the social media companies finally grew a pair and de-platformed him. At least that part of our long national nightmare is over. POTUS #46 was inaugurated — a new (and real) president who actually cares about other people and wants to and knows how to govern. Whether the crazies on the red team will let him do so is unlikely, but many of them are going to prison for the attempted insurrection on the Capitol on January 6th. Also in the win column is people have been getting vaccinated for the coronavirus, though not nearly as many that could or should be by now. As for lil’ ol’ A Dude Abikes, I did what I could to keep my health and sanity to the extent possible by biking and doing some new or different things. Not resolutions exactly, because who needs that pressure? Let’s go to the stats, stat!
For a while now I’ve been sitting down at the computer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to write a blog post. Often I have a topic in mind, usually something that’s come to me from my daily bicycle ride, walk or yoga practice. Sometimes I think of it afterward. Then I publish it so that a few readers in Europe can see it first thing, and maybe some night owls in the US see it, too. I try to get it done quickly, in the 30-minute time-frame that I’ve come to break many things down into. But a decently written blog with photos and links can sometimes take me hours. Especially if I start late, and the later it gets, the fuzzier the brain. Clarity on a national scale seems a bit more hopeful. After the American horror story that was the last four years under the raging, narcissistic, assholian tyranny of POTUS #45, it seems like maybe things are sorta kinda starting to get back to normal. Except the problems #46, good ol’ Scranton Joe, has inherited are serious: the economy tanking due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic, with no quick end in sight to either. It feels to me as if I’m bicycling while Rome is burning.