Tour de France 2016: Stages 1-7

If you don't follow me on Instagram, I've been making collage postcards for every stage of the Tour, combined with commentary from the infamous Monday Morning DS. Here's the first week, in full!

Stage 1:

Stage 2:

Monday Morning DS: Yo, Sagan finally won something.

Stage 3:

Monday Morning DS: Kittel? Fuck Kittel. Only thing Kittel is going to win is another year in Shimano shoes.

Stage 4:

Monday Morning DS: Wow Kittel won. Wowowowowow. Must be 'cause he's on Sidis now.

Stage 5:

Monday Morning DS: You'd think Greg Van Avermaet would fix his shitty fucking teeth.

Stage 6:

Monday Morning DS: Goddamn, Nike, sell me those fucking shoes already!

Stage 7:

Monday Morning DS: Did Nibali even train for this Tour?

Prescription Dom Perignon

Every couple of months, I find myself in a compromising position, where the strangest part about my situation is not that I don’t have any pants on. It’s not that a virtual stranger is hovering over me with a giant popsicle stick, or that hot wax is involved. Or that I actually enjoy the process. It’s always something else with my waxing sessions.

There was the time in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I swear the woman was using a pumice. It was so painful, it scared my hair into not growing back for nearly two weeks (unfortunately, it’s also been the best wax job I’ve ever received). There was the time I ended up hearing about how much skin you have to push, pull, and generally move around when you wax a scrotum. That time I got offered a job (I’m still not quite sure what to think of the fact that the only time I’ve been offered a job on the spot, I was naked from the waist down). And then there was that time that the nice lady working industriously over my nether regions was convinced that I really needed to get on Tinder.

Of course, I could lie. “I’m dating this awesome guy, fantastic in bed,” I could say. “I’m totally gainfully employed; love my job,” I could also claim. Yet, somehow, being deceptive at a time when you’re lying back, half naked, seems extremely silly. And because that translates to guys as well, I haven’t allowed myself to download Tinder. Besides, I like to tell myself, I’m not a reliable date. After all, I’ve been prescribed Dom Perignon.

Okay, it’s domperidone. Not quite the fizzy, alcoholic elixir – ironically named after a monk – of the French aristocracy, and more like a small, coincidentally pale yellow tablet that lets me eat somewhat normally. It’s the current fix for stomach problems that have been getting progressively worse over the past three to four years: hardcore morning nausea, a tight throat and more nausea after meals, and other unpleasant symptoms like bloating until I look pregnant.

And so, while I had hoped by this time that I’d be re-establishing those tan lines, I haven’t ridden outside in over two months.

It sucks. A lot. The worst part is the unpredictability. I’ll be fine for five days in a row, and kitted up and ready to head out on a long-anticipated outdoor ride, my stomach will suddenly throw a temper tantrum. I’d like to say that I’m coming to terms with it, but my friends would probably claim otherwise. They’d be right; I’ve been reduced – more times than I’d like to admit – to lying in bed in my bib shorts and sports bra, weeping in frustration.

It hasn’t been all bad, though. Usually, I’ve managed to make it to the gym a few times a week. One could argue, of course, that if I could lift, I can probably ride. That may be true; but fighting nausea in a squat rack near friends seems far more appealing and comforting than trying to keep a belly full of Skratch down while attempting to pedal myself home, alone. And though I still can’t squat for shit, I’m finally growing some arms. I’ve made gym friends I can laugh with, too, and lifting ensures I go home genuinely, honestly hungry.

On days I lift, the rest of the day can throw what it wants at me. It can involve stories about scrotums, some serious exfoliation that borders on sadism, or not-so-subtle hints that I need to get laid. It can involve that frustrating feeling of being hungry yet nauseous at the same time, for the entire day, or acid reflux that burns my throat and keeps me up at night. Even getting creeped on by the local creeper at the gym ain't no thang. I might not have my bike to run to, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay.

If not, I can always take more Dom Perignon.

Michael Barry is Awesome

One of my favorite former pro cyclists - not only because he's been super supportive of all my projects. Thanks as always, Mr. Barry!

Subject: author, Mariposa Bicycles director, and former pro cyclist Michael Barry

Materials used: maple cream cookies

The Postcard Project

“Do you read a lot?” A then-new friend asked me a few months ago.

“No, not really,” I said, almost with guilt, because the question sparked a memory of an acquaintance who seems to finish a book a week, broadcasting her consumption via Instagram. In comparison, I am a practicing anorexic, selecting to sip and savor tropes at a deliberate pace. I read, re-read, and watch sentences slowly unfurl into rich, bittersweet storylines. By the time I lumber through the last page – and they have to be real, paper pages – I can’t think of peeling back the cover of a new book until everything inside has settled.

I didn’t used to be like this. Until a handful of years ago, I faithfully relied on my slim Kindle, a nearly ancient version featuring the miniature keyboard and absolutely no touch screen. You had to click through the pages, back and forth, via oblong buttons on the side of the device. “Flipping through” a book meant furiously clicking back a page at a time and hoping you’d land somewhere near that sentence you really liked but forgot to bookmark. And then repeating the process to get back to where you were. It made recalling passages nearly impossible. You simply couldn’t go back to something you didn’t have the foresight to highlight. On the other hand, it encouraged progression like any good electronic device; the meter at the bottom of the screen encouraged me to read faster, consume more, and hoard titles – instantly delivered via wi-fi! – in my slim, gray bank. I bought into it, becoming the ideal Amazon customer. I bought e-books because “they’re so much cheaper than the print versions,” and left them to hibernate. I became those people who buy books – print or electronic – as if purchasing literature would also include the instant download of the thought and intellect required to actually read and comprehend what was inside. Books, by virtue of their ability to be consumed in bulk, were the new intellectual status symbol.

Somehow, through this era of enarmorment with an “electronic reading device,” I was able to retain enough self-awareness to realize that I wouldn’t be able to read anything remotely thought-provoking in an electronic format. Those books remained out of reach, simply because recalling themes and paragraphs would either take several days to click back to, or the process would be so frustrating that I would invariably drive my head through a wall. This, coupled with the purchase of an iPhone that turned my life into a parody of human interaction, switching from screen to screen to screen to screen, finally broke me. I ricocheted back to real books, embracing the ability to literally thumb through creamy pages fat with words.

Recently, that focus on the real has leaked over to email, Facetime, Skype, texts. So much of our lives is filtered through a screen – both literally and figuratively – that communication, while instantaneous, becomes less meaningful. “It erodes,” Noam Chomsky once said in an interview, of the Internet, “normal human relations.”

Separated by most of my friends by an ocean and several time zones, it’s never clear whether anyone who is unfortunate enough to be closely associated with me truly understands my gratitude for their company. In a world saturated with emails and texts, lines declaring that partners in crime are missed, that five year old custom-made frames are still dearly loved, that I still think of that ride when, or how grateful I am that certain people stuck around until I clawed my way out of a vortex of depression, seem to risk getting lost in the deluge. And because I think the world of my friends, and because I am stubborn, I started to make postcards.

Measuring 10.5cm by 15cm, they’re small collages of memories patched together from piles of old magazines. They’re fun to make between food portraits, and layering paper on thicker stock gives them a nice, tangible weight. They’re real. Hand-made, hand-written, and hand-sent. Three have arrived at their destinations thus far (the wait is excruciating, compared with the click and send of email), with more (hopefully, lots more) on the way.

Fingers crossed they have their intended impact. And even if they don’t, each one is really the best 70yen I’ve spent.