Did a little bit of this...
Tried to keep up with this...
And then demolished this...
[More soon, I promise!]
Did a little bit of this...
Tried to keep up with this...
And then demolished this...
[More soon, I promise!]
Tommy was one of my closest friends my junior year of college. Accidental neighbors, I had outwardly rolled my eyes while bracing myself for a year filled with drunken, slurred shouting and loud music. Not that I knew the guy, then, but I’d heard enough and seen him around. Tall, with dark hair and classically Italian looks, I had quietly resented his smirk and good posture, equating confidence with douchebaggery. I resolved to stay out of his way that first month of the semester, scuttling around the hallways, trying to avoid eye contact or acknowledgment that I existed. But both of us ended up showing up to too many of the same impromptu frat parties, and fueled by a little liquid courage, I finally admitted that I lived next to him.
“Man, you must think I’m a total asshole,” he said.
At that moment, although the 3 a.m. blasting of Nas and Eminem came to mind, I couldn’t say that I did. Maybe I was too surprised at his response to be totally honest. Maybe his cute roommate - who made both my best friend and me spend our time competitively trying to bump into him - came to mind. Maybe it was Tommy himself, who was charmingly attractive, that confident smirk broadening easily into a happy smile that I later learned would earn him forgiveness from most women. I laughed in response to his comment as I offered him a light, and over cigarettes and red plastic cups filled with cheap, cold beer, we became friends. By the end of our first conversation, I went so far as to mention my secret little crush on his roommate: “Hey, that guy you live with? He’s kind of cute.”
His roommate started saying hi to me after that. Probably because Tommy had informed him that “that chick that lives next to us? She told me she wants to fuck you.”
Despite this obvious miscommunication, Tommy and I became solid friends. He was the guy that would lead me to believe that most American guys could easily finish a case of beer by themselves and also sparked my soft spot for thick Boston accents. I voluntarily played drunken slut to get jealous girls to hook up with him, and when I made it a habit of passing out on the frat house couch after my one obligatory beer, Tommy would play pitbull, just in case. He’d go home for the night with someone else [as would I], but we’d reconvene in the morning. We always did. And because of our adherence to each other, deep inside, I felt as if he were all mine.
The next year, though we lived on the same hall again, things changed. Tommy fell in love with someone he probably shouldn’t have and our friendship faded. He was no longer mine - not even partially - and when I finally admitted it to myself, my heart cracked a little.
It wasn’t the shattering that happens when someone you believe you love drifts away. Because though that’s a unique kind of hurt, that Hiroshima-ed part of you tends to grow back. There may be weeks or months of broken hearted tears, but in those times of “I’m never going to date again,” it’s your friends that will pick you up, dust you off, and drag you back onto the bike or into life. When you lose one of those friends, though, it goes straight to the part of you that doesn’t heal over after pints of ice cream and shots of vodka. That part of your heart that doesn’t so much as shatter as crack or chip. Like a well worn steel frame, the blemishes build character, but that doesn’t mean the process doesn’t suck.
I am intimately familiar with this due to my own special blend of social retardation and immature pride. Never blessed with the charisma to rake in crowds of potential friends [even on Facebook where the ability to operate a mouse qualifies you to be “friends” with celebrities], I’ve hoarded whatever friends I could earn. Their relative rarity leads me to treat them like treasured $20 bills, individuals to be saved for those good coffee shops that only take cash. Viewed objectively, the exchange of tender looks the same, but those friends are somehow more valuable than a promiscuous swipe of the credit card.
It doesn’t make sense, but then again, it probably shouldn’t. The currency of friendship is an odd one because no one should be keeping score. A good thing if, like me, you tend to always be in the red. Not that I don’t attempt efforts at repayment, but my friends are either too clueless to understand basic economics or, more foolishly, don’t care about the glaring liability that is our friendship. I can only hope that they have enough asset-producing friends to balance out whatever detriment I incur in their lives as I, ever the debtor, luck out on their generosity.
In a way, this deceptive sense of never returning what is paid to you is what makes the friendship real. Because in truth, friendships are costly. Socializing having become an integral part of my ride in recent weeks, my lone jersey gets squeezed out multiple times a week in my bathtub. That’s a lot more times than I would have washed my jersey otherwise, as, often stranded on solitary rides, being close enough to be smelled was never an issue. My bathroom resembles a makeshift closet of bike gear most of the time, cuticles are always dry, and those now-clean shorts are going to be slathered with chamois cream yet again tomorrow. Submerging hands in a sink full of soapy water almost every day is becoming routine, but the trade-off is worth the unpleasantly pruned fingers.
Not incidentally, my legs and ego are paying up as well. The luxury of solitude, of course, is that no one ever has to hear you voice what you suspect might be true about your abilities on a bike. When you make bike friends, however, the sharing of vulnerabilities centers not around crushes and personal complexes [as is usually the case], but strength and speed. This means I am consistently faced with the uncomfortable choice of either blowing myself up on these rides or gasping out a request to slow down. My legs might be getting murdered by people I genuinely like, and it’s not like anyone’s judging, but it remains a humbling experience to state my [many] limitations.
But despite all this, I have too easily agreed to join in on too many rides of the Jesus-Hernandez-this-hurts variety this week. Friends iron out the creases that develop on my forehead as they pull me up another climb or drag me through some dirt and gravel, and I repay them in kind with my complaining. I get dropped here and there, but I know they’ll be waiting at the top of a climb or around the corner of the next turn.
Waiting to reconvene. Because we always do.
A friend commented the other day that he thought I was from the Pacific Northwest.
“You’re so laid back,” he said.
I burst out laughing. Me? Laid back? Yeah, laid back like bat shit crazy’s laid back. Still, oddly flattered, I brandished my compliment du jour later that night to Mike. His response:
“.....WHAT???? Does this kid even know you? Hahahahahahhaa! You, ‘laid back.’ Hahahahahaha...”
I told him to shut his face.
True, that compliment isn’t accurate, and was the farthest thing from the truth a few weeks ago. I had given up on the rollers; even Dragonforce couldn’t coax me on my track bike. Bored and frustrated, I was pretty much going stir crazy. The weather outside looked bleak and miserable. Riding bikes had ceased to be fun about two months ago. Spring didn’t look like it was going to make an appearance anytime soon. My middle name was “Doom and Gloom.”
But the weather turned on Saturday and for the first time in my [fairly short cycling] life, I did solid 2 hour rides on 5 out of the past 6 days. Fully aware of my finicky muscles, I rolled out my IT bands every few hours after riding, did some awesome yoga stretches, and even tried stretching in class. Miraculously, my IT bands didn’t break in half, my calves are still functioning, and my tendons haven’t been torn into itty bitty pieces. An ever-so-slightly lowered saddle fixed the aching hamstrings after the second day. Considering how out of shape I am - remember, two weeks off those rollers? - the fact that I’m capable of standing right now is pretty impressive.
The almost daily rides also meant that I’ve had that buzzy feeling of euphoric exhaustion all week [and a ravenous appetite]. Too tired post-ride to do much else than hold a highlighter, my frantic mood swings were unusually subdued. I was almost laid back. Mellow, even.
My rides were the same way, too, which is something you might expect, as they were far from long or fast. Sure, they were challenging enough to make my doughy legs work for it, but there was a lot of no-handed riding in there, too. And all week, I got to pat myself on the back for simply riding. Yay!
Everything on my rides was awesome...or is awesome, until the whole snot thing starts. For 80% of my ride, I’m sniffling or smearing snot around my face with my sleeve. I’m totally okay with being gross by myself, but my faucet-like nostrils are distracting, to say the least. Finally fed up with it yesterday, I looked up and down the street, made sure no cyclists were in sight, and tried my first snot rocket.
It splattered all over my right thigh. I’m not even going to tell you how obscene it looked.
If any of you have tips on how to master that elusive nostril-clearing technique, please let me know. I can really use help on this one.
I got rained on yesterday - for the first time this summer.
It wasn't even heavy rain, and lasted a mere 5 minutes. But lacking a front fender, my legs were instantly covered in beads of water, raising goosebumps on my unevenly tanned appendages.
It was the first time, in a while, that I was sort of uncomfortable on my bike. And between dodging puddles and eyeing the overcast sky, I was actually thankful that I had a run scheduled yesterday afternoon, and no ride.
As much as I'd love to move to Seattle, sometimes I wonder how much riding I'd get in if I actually did.
The nicer weather's definitely been spoiling me. Rain shouldn't even be a problem, just sort of messy. There's no ice or snow involved, no layers and layers of clothing to stay warm, no feeling as if I'm pedaling with all my might but not moving. But I'm still trying to dodge the outdoors, and using gyming, errands, and overdue hat orders as excuses to stay inside.
Lame, I know. I mean, I know. The worst part is that gymming is just...so much easier. Running indoors on a treadmill at a gym conveniently located on my way home from work takes no psychological effort. On the other hand, planning a route, making sure I have everything I need [tubes, pump, energy bar, water, etc.] for a ride, then actually throwing down even a so-so number of miles is much more mentally straining. And when it's wet, humid, and rainy out, motivation conveniently slips away and is nowhere to be found.
I'm running again today [the guilt!]. But only because tomorrow morning looks like it's going to be clear. And that means a real bike ride.
Faux-roadie-proseur weekend, here I come!
This scorching heat must have toasted my brain into a half-baked mess today.
Okay, there are confounding factors. Like too little sleep and too many obligations and responsibilities that I'm literally riding away from whenever I head out west. The sheer irony being that in trying not to think about errands, hats, emails, etc, etc, etc...well, I end up thinking about them. A lot.
Although I managed to keep myself from ramming into parked cars, there was some quick swerving around potholes and roadkill, and even the need to use that squeaky front brake. And while being zoned out helped with the hills [I would be halfway up one without seeming to notice I was even climbing], I could not, for the life of me, clip in.
When done unconsciously, it takes me less than a second. But I was fumbling today, coasting and peering over my knee as I tried to engage and hear that satisfying *click*. Don't think about it, don't think about it, I thought. And then I'd think about it.
I even did that super newbie move where I thought I was clipped in only to have my pedal slip out from under my cleat and bash my shin. I also managed to scratch myself on my front brake; the icing on the cake being a bloody knee when I accidentally smashed it into a counter when I got home.
It's probably just sheer complacency. This is no NYC. These are the 'burbs of Boston, where I can stay in my drops without so much as tapping my brakes for miles. Heading out on rides sleepy and sans coffee is actually an option. Pedestrians are pretty much nonexistent, and even if Waltham is completely different from Brighton and Brookline, I know where I'm going.
And in response, my brain seems to have shut down a little. Even with wider shoulders and the confidence to do slightly shady stuff on my bike, my legs weren't tense and alert. I felt sluggish. Even a little lazy.
I suppose that's what happens when you come home.
Books are officially closed for the summer.
And before I have to slip into button downs and the occasional suit, I have a small window of freedom. Well, I have a growing list of things that need to get done, but that comes after I regroup, mentally assess the mess that my life and apartment are in, and say fuck it for now and fall asleep without worrying about anything.
I have incredibly selfish plans for the next few days. They mostly involve doing whatever the fuck I want, mostly on my bike, mostly by myself. I have miles and miles of training to catch up on, places I want to pedal to, and that ever-persistant obligation to fall asleep in bliss and not wake up until late morning. And if that wasn't enough, there are beers to be consumed, Americanos to be sipped, and cookies to be baked and eaten.
Oh, right, and hats to make. Running to the grocery store after a quick post-exam ride, I parked next to a bright red Iro. Coming out of the store, I met its owner, who greeted me with:
"Hey, I know you from the Internet!"
I have to fix a hat for him. I was planning on putting that off until tomorrow, or the next day...but the guilt's winning out. So, I'm starting that tonight...after purging my inbox, a cup of coffee, and being completely lazy.
It's going to be a struggle getting that last one done, though, I can feel it already.