In the fall of 2003, I paid $5 to see Sage Francis perform at my small college in Pennsylvania. After graduation, Sage’s “Hell of a Year” – on repeat – got me through the depression of post-graduate-underemployment, then the first year of law school. It was a happy coincidence when I started to ride; Sage has probably used the most cycling-related lyrics out of any MC in history (a particular favorite is from "Pressure Cooker": "Hyperventilating praying for the end of days to come / By selling survival kits, New Testament Bibles to Zionists / And training wheels to professional cyclists"). Late last year, when I finally got around to listening to his newer music, I replaced “Hell of a Year” with “The Best of Times” and “Make Em Purr.”
Remember in the last Lord of the Rings trilogy, when Frodo is essentially red-lining for about four hours? If you combine that with the lyrics from “Make Em Purr,” minus the sick cat, the result is a pretty good description of my life for the past five months. Riding used to be how I dealt with a string of dead-end jobs, getting bullied for having a Japanese face but being too American, and slowly losing the majority of my friends. When I got too sick to ride, I thought my world was over. I was bitter and angry that it couldn’t keep my head above water for more than three years. In hindsight, it’s an unreasonable demand – I don’t think any amount of solitary riding could have kept me upright – but that didn’t do much for the crushing depression that followed. It felt – and still feels – like having my heart broken every single day. I sat in front of my immobile bike and cried and cried and cried. I stopped going outside. I stopped doing much of anything.
Maybe if you stay still long enough, that kind of depression will make you bottom out, break through to some other side where your brain overloads on sadness and you inexplicably become capable of taking care of yourself again. I don’t know, because instead of waiting it out, I started to self-medicate with food art.
It’s silly, I know, because rearranging crumbs on a plate isn’t exactly meaningful. It doesn’t make beautiful music. It doesn’t help me build those skills I probably need to get that job I should probably apply to so I can start climbing that corporate ladder to further that career I should probably have. It doesn't even make me feel better half the time, and I doubt it makes me a better person. But like Sage’s music, it does the nearly impossible: it keeps me from drowning, and that counts for something.
Sweep the head, breaking bread with the best of 'em
Crumbs left under the table for the rest of 'em
Song: Cheat Code
Artist: Sage Francis
Materials used: bread crumbs