Amateur Cyclist: Prologue

Spring is set to begin in a drought-stricken town adjacent to an ocean. Children are approaching the end of another academic semester. The thought of such institutionalization still haunts an emerging adult faced with many social and societal pressures. The changing of times leaves him another year older and being rudely reminded by the current generation’s language and trendsetting. 

After finding solace in a life behind two wheels and shaved legs, our main character is exposed to his fellow human  in all different shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Here lies a duality tough to swallow. 

He seeks pleasure in being able to travel back in time and discover lives lived in a “simpler” time. Picking the brains of the older (only by biological standards) crowd brings him much joy by listening to battle stories of a time spent at an age near his own. Not only in active listening, but having the storyteller show the correlation between their past success and his own emerging success brings about a bliss that is so powerful, our main character is unable to actively cope and realistically comprehend his own potential and shuns the bulk of the possibilities at success through cycling.

On the other hand, he is faced with a new generation of riders who resemble a hunger and a fire he stoked on a more frequent basis. Panic and a hint of envy are constantly lingering in the back of his head. While at the same time he makes an honest attempt at pushing his pride to the side since his flame is at a lull at this transitional point of his life. There is a sense of genuine friendship and solidarity he never got to experience as a youth who grew up primarily an only child, jumping from school to school, and failing to acknowledge his reclusive character in both the intimate and non-intimate setting. All of these factors make him standoffish when opportunities to join new friendship circles come along. Having realized how important human interaction is for his species, he finds connecting with his fellow peers an energy draining experience and reserves these times for when they will benefit him the most. 

Taking all of this into consideration, our main character relizes his generation is no longer under the societal microscope and this scares him in a way. Much like the tides that come and go, he is afraid he will be swept away with yesterday’s waves and be another forgotten memory. Social media is the most prominent method that points this out to him. He has found his own voice in the past years and has used this voice to form his own opinions on life and has shaped his character (many times) to a form that feels most comfortable. This voice has cruel, cynical, and sadistic words towards such photo sharing applications. 

Dealing with the good and bad, the comfortable, and uncomfortable, he is faced with a decision to make. Keep up with the times and remain relevant, or slowly turn into an old, bitter man day by day. Given the most recent spell of loneliness in his life, our main character decides to step out of his cynical comfort zone and remain relevant. Patience will be tested, jokes will be made, enemies may be formed. This is a path he is willing to pedal along and will continue to do so for the sake of curiously and self-discovery….

Life of a Philosopher

enough side stepping….

I get a kick out of spending chunks of time with no objective agenda. I spend time at parks, indoors, or any comfy surface. It might seem like I’m staring off into space without a single thought in my head, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Why is it that when someone is physically idle everyone presumes they are mentally idle? While the same thoughts might not appear ever time I begin to reflect on time spent on this planet, there is a lot going on upstairs. 

Ancient Greek philosophers lived lives that were seen as lazy and unproductive. I too share these same social pressures usually from my own neurosis. The capitalistic social norms have a powerful effect on the human psyche. While an argument can be made for what someone is able to accomplish if they continue to live life in the traditional go to school, college, find a significant other (a, then b, then c….) people fail to realize what can be gain from a life not lived in the pursuit of material goods and social status. 

Philosophy as a conceptual application would not have blossomed into what it is today without those thinkers spending their lives immersed in deep thoughts about existence, purpose and self discovery. Pondering thoughts like these takes time and does not involve a direct sense of urgency. I find this process most important and enjoyable. Think of all the realizations that came from these ancient thinkers. Imagine what a sense of relief someone would get when you realized that you don’t have to spend years of your life doing something you don’t enjoy and that you can find happiness in alternative avenues most people will not mention or build a lifestyle around. On a more existential level, once someone is able to find happiness in a certain method that is neither directly harming themselves or those around them, what more is there to existence?

I go back and forth between pursuing some arbitrary goal involving further formal education, sacrifice, and more money and continuing to live the way I live now. Mainly because of my surroundings and being at the age when everyone tells themselves they want this career and their lives will sort itself  out once said career has been achieved. I’m not kidding anybody. I know this life isn’t for me. There was a point in time when realizing this brought about fear since this is what I’ve always been told was the way to obtain success. Having discovered this is not true, I am glad and reassured that I am living the life I want to live. 

I’m at a good place in my life right now. I may be in between phases, but my head is in the right place. I have found what makes me happy and will continue that pursuit no matter how sparse my resume may look at the end of the line. I am not interested in what looks good on paper at this time. This may not be what works for everyone else, but this is most comfortable for me and that’s all there is to it. 

-dfj

You’ll Never Guess What Happened

Time to get the creative juices flowing….

It is easy to say we stand for or against such topics like domestic abuse, water conservation, and the war on drugs. Topics like these have such a natural moralistic response that saying you are for or against them is unoriginal and seriously lacking in creativity when defining one’s character. The reason I bring this up is to attempt to enlighten those who choose to quickly jump to certain go-to responses when it comes to comforting one another. When someone shares an experience where something is lost, damaged, or has died, it is mindbogglingly obvious, unoriginal, and mildly frustrating to hear the listener go about traditional ways to comfort. I refuse to believe that the person sharing said experience will be surprised to hear that someone the person they are talking to is sorry for their loss, or is somehow unaware that their situation is unfortunate and must be told that by the listener. I believe we all can agree that we all feel the same way when someone shares a loss as this is a natural human reaction. That being said, lets take it a step further and refrain from voicing this responses that has been embedded in our social DNA from day one. This type of redundancy is so prevalent that it can be skipped altogether to a more constructive type of conversation.

I choose to share my own experiences with those I care about because I trust them enough to avoid this archaic route and to keep things more organic and less, Follow steps: 1,2,3…. (dated circa, the beginning of the human language.) Those handful of people know how I function and the key to my heart is sometimes simply absorbing what is being put into the conversation and letting all the natural emotions run their course. Part of me felt bad at expecting this type of non-traditional response from a stranger I have been talking to for a few days. She had a hard time processing this alternative path in comforting someone and was offended that her way of going about problem solving wasn’t the right way to help. I can’t be upset at someone for doing something one way for their entire lives and being expected to change all of a sudden. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for both of us in the future.

Preface: Before jumping into your own routine, please be aware of what is about to take place. I will attempt to share an experience that happened to me a few days ago. Rhetorical questions will be asked, but none requiring answers (meaning please do not provide a solution to something that is not a direct question.) Lastly and arguably one of the most important parts is PLEASE try your best to honor by request of being a wall. A silent wall that is still able to absorb what is in it’s proximity. I will be more comforted by what is not said than by, “I’m sorry to hear that.” “Sorry about your loss.” “What you should do is….” “That sucks. That’s terrible.” I am aware of all of these reactions, I’ve felt them myself and don’t need them repeated to me.

 On Thursday my track bike was stolen while attending some training class at Santa Monica College. The strange thing is that all the events leading up to the final goodbye felt as though I knew this was going to happen and I was slowly preparing myself mentally for the loss. I can remember being in a car accident with my folks many years ago. We rear ended a semi on the freeway and ended up totaling the car. At the time my folks wore their seat belts very rarely out of ignorance. This one time we were headed back home from whatever errands we were doing and we seemed to all make a subconscious effort to buckle up, as if we somehow knew this was going to happen. Thursday definitely felt like that.

While I could easily Social media blast my loss, play the victim, and call upon assistance from others to help right this wrong, I will not be doing this because it simply is not in my nature. I will say this again, (I KNOW THIS SUCKS, AND IT’S AN UNFORTUNATE LOSS) but at the same speed that you have read this sentence, I have let this experience pass through me, and I am continuing to go with the flow by going about my life.

I had a concert I planned to go to a few months before and was unable to attend in the way I had planned because of it. I could have easily taken a Lyft to the venue, bought another ticket, and attempted to have a good time. This option seemed out of the question as it goes against the loose definition of an organic experience I have set for myself. Instead, I took a moment to reflect on what had happened, and adapt to the new environment that was brought on. The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me.

Years ago when I was still in school I got another bike stolen. This happened conveniently after my last final of the semester and a few hours before work. Rather than making a big deal about it on social media, I continued to be mindful that I had other responsibilities to take care of and proceeded onward. I found a bus route that took me to work and went about my day.

The same went for Thursday. The show was missed and I now own one less bike. That’s it!

These are the facts and there is no need for an emotional response. This is now in the past and we as a species must move on instead of clinging to things that are out of our control.

Fun fact: I know whoever took it is a scumbag because I left my new helmet strapped to it, only to find that that was the only thing left when I returned to where I parked my bike.

That is my experience. Not much is left to be said. Those are all my thoughts on the subject. I’m currently going through a bit of grief not because of the bike but from general loneliness. The desire to feel things is once again fading away into a state of emotionless, stagnant isolation. I’ve gone through this before and will be trying to ride things out in hopes that they get better before they get worse. Until next time…. Thanks for listening (you’ve already been more helpful than you’re aware of.)

-dfj

Off-the-bike Thoughts

This is the second Saturday I’ve decided to stay off the bike for the majority of the day. Hope I’m not coming down with something….

I’ve been pondering a bit about cycling. Particularly, the marketability. While every amateur cyclist here in SoCal is willing to praise and promote any sponsor on the market, I have indifferent opinions towards this concept. Full disclosure: the race team I ride for has many sponsors and while I am thankful for their contributions to products, it is not in my character to saturate my being and most of my social interactions as one big commercial for (insert brand of choice.) Perhaps it’s because I’m less affectionate towards most people. There has got to be some way to have my reclusive cake and eat it too.

One of the examples that first comes to mind is Mario Cipollini. Second disclosure: I am in no way, shape, or form an expert of any degree when it comes to this talented rider and his background or upbringing. On face value, I am clearly aware of his success when he was in his prime. He was known not only for this sprinting talents, but an attitude all his own that wasn’t always friendly. Any Youtube search will bring up a scene of him either winning a race, or showing a more frustrated, less PR friendly behavior. I can only imagine he has been fined multiple times for these types of acts, but I never once recalled him jumping from team to team for his behavior. I’m not suggesting we all go on rampages and let the wild, and more emotional side out during every bike race. I’m providing an example of an alternative approach to a marketing campaign.

Since his times racing in the pro peloton, “Super Mario” now sells boutique bikes catered to the 1% who have a fetish for all things Italian. Be that as it may, he has cleaned up his act and has sponsored a women’s team as seen here. Shifting from one end of the marketing spectrum to the other has shown that both options have the potential for success. Insert Star Wars dark side, light side analogy somewhere in this paragraph.

It seems like most sponsors are afraid to show such bold opinions in the world of cycling (at least from a road cyclist’s perspective.) I’m not saying we should saturate the market with a bunch of sassy divas, but perhaps show that more humble and slightly humorous approaches to marketing grab another type of target market’s attention much like yours truly. I for one am getting a little tired of the pretentious brands that cater to the has-beens and never-weres of the world. Insert slow-mo of a road cyclist in muggy, rainy weather, riding without a helmet, out of saddle with a five o’clock shadow, looking away from the slightly dim-lit camera on some windy road. Much like the light show at Disneyland, it was fun when you saw it the first few times as a kid, but has now lost it’s magic.

I could be the only one who feels this way. Perhaps I’m letting my inner grumpy old man get the best of me. Or maybe it’s the cynic finally voicing how tired it is from seeing everyone conform to this repetitive approach to marketing the world of (I’m gonna narrow things down here) road cycling. The reason I do this is because other disciplines seem to have a better balance of humble, less stuck-up and ultra competitive at their disposal. Part of me hopes I’m not the only one who feels this way about the slowly changing world of bikes. I think I’m done for now. Time to get back on the bike and back on my routine.

-dfj

Time Travel

As defined as revisiting a setting you were previously exposed to at an older age….

Time travel is possible and in a figurative sense, I was successful last night. Since date night was cancelled I decided to ride my bike some more during the evening in hopes to accomplish the same goals that were set originally (I wanted to mingle and flirt.) Like any wise time traveler, I went with an escort. My good friend Jason who I know and trust dearly escort me to the Mid-Wilshire / McArthur park area to meet up with more casual urban riders to ride bikes, drink beer, and all those familiar tasks at hand.

We showed up a little early but were then met by regular attendees. While observing the scene of riders I am reminded of a time when I was just beginning to discover the bike scene for the first time. So many different shapes and sizes of riders. One of the most common things I saw were people fitting their bodies to the bikes they owned and not the other way around. I tried to push down the old purist’s soul, go with the flow, and enjoy everyone’s company. It was blatantly obvious that the majority of today’s night riders have a narrow approach to becoming the cyclist they wish to be. Much like every enthusiast, we know a handful of pro names and may have even seen a bike race or two, whether it’s a local street race, or wherever the hell you watch pro cyclist on the interwebs. The reason I say this is because there were people with entry level bikes (much like the one I have) the highest end (in no particular order) shoes, handlebars, computers, all while wearing no helmet, no lights, or their bike properly.

Everyone who you chose to talk to was more than friendly. I was unable to find someone who’s opinion I had trusted about more intimate bike talk when discussing parts, riding types, and etiquette. I was most impressed by the ride leader and his most friendly and approachable attitude. He was polite and descriptive about his intentions for the ride, clearly trying to cater to almost all skill types (while the fully kitted riders were ready to throw all caution to the wind.) Nonetheless it was only a short amount of time until I stumbled across a rider I identified with the most whom I felt represented me some six years ago.

An eager to learn soul who showed a combination of determination, attitude, recklessness, while somehow showing an appreciation for the bike. If anything he was a little more open minded since he had both a road and a track bike. Between the substance exchange we established a friendly connection and while the hangout before the roll out is always enjoyable, we were ready to ride. Having already been told This was a street clothes ride, there were a handful of fully kitted riders who were ready to be the winners of the group ride. I had decided before I left my house that I was going to take a more mellow approach to the group ride. In doing so, I saw so much hyper extension in the legs that I had to look away in fear of letting my mind get the best of me an expecting the worst case scenarios of losing control. There were a fair share of times where things did get out of control. Riders not wanting to stop for red lights and giving them and those around them a bad name. Riders not having the ability to stop and locking up their rear wheels either with the sole of their shoes or through brute force of the most popular rear-wheel-skid. I am taken aback to times where I believed this was the norm for this type of cycling. While I distinctly also remember never putting all my trust in a skid and to this day have never used my shoe to slow me down, more than one person did this through multiple steep descents in downtown Los Angles (you know because you could smell it.)

The ride started off on a good note nonetheless. When after some time (before the first stop) a local known name showed up. It was from then on that this turned into a local legend dick riding contest. The pace went up immediately and most riders (males) took off. I will admit that I did partake in such accelerations, leaving out my chances to find a female (or male) counterpart to mingle and flirt with. Much like all ride hijackings for the sake of speed, turns were missed and confusion began (in the heart of downtown with all the one-way streets.) We regrouped and did it all over again. I couldn’t get over the fact that this guy looked race ready on a Wednesday night group ride at around 10:30pm. Clearly this guy has some type of complex, knew this ride was going to happen, and took it as an opportunity to surround himself by others who he knows will give him the attention he so wants. Once we finally regrouped, I got my head back on straight and refrained from continuing to go with this bull. I stuck with the leader, along with testing other riders abilities by seeing how close I could get without them freaking out (not very close sadly.) We stopped at our first stop and I decided it was time for me to leave. The leader had mentioned that once we arrive to our destination, there is usually a race back (for bragging rights I presume) to which I wanted to part of. I’d rather troll the group and make them question their decision making like I normally do in an everyday setting. (Funny story, the first stop was at the top of a hill about two miles long that ungulates a few times before the crest. I was there to see the front group finish, out of breath and out of step. I then shouted, “Who won?!” to no response. (the next question would have been, “What did you win?”)) I’m not sure why I get such a kick out of attempting to turn the tables on such strong personalities. Speaking of….

As mentioned before there was little to no regard to traffic laws, which resulted in drivers saying hurtful things. Two men were passing a group of us by up this hill and proudly shouted something to the extent of, this behavior is why drivers want to run you over (and that he wouldn’t feel bad if he were the one to do it.) “Have a nice day! I replied to which I’m sure the driver got a chuckle out of.

So on my ride home I was feeling a combination of dehydration, fatigue, existentialism, and an elevated state of mind. Did some soul searching to try and cope with the pain I was putting myself through on the ride home to decide whether this (world domination through cycling) is what I really want. I had concluded that it is the state of vulnerability that everyone is afraid to show and what keeps us from moving forward in all walks of life. In realizing that I made an effort to rediscover that vulnerable state that comes from fatigue. Since I was travelling on a flat road, I was able to lock into it with little road distractions. I required myself to dig deep and have my effort be running on sheer mental will. People mention that the biggest differences happen after the athlete is fatigued. This was my goal for the ride home and it was met more than once. Fitness carries the body longer than most of us think. As cliche as it may sound, pushing past that mental boundary is  what separates the wheat from the chaff. Once we reach past that first mental barrier, our fitness is on autopilot and it becomes nothing more than a head game. I had forgotten what that was like and pleasantly reminded of times in which I had to ride back home at an even later hour, wearing clothing less suited for the weather, in a more fatigued state.

While not all my goals were met, much like people’s goals are in Los Angeles, they were happily deterred to something else of equal value. I was trying to figure out what it was about that obnoxious type of riding I used to do that got me so in shape and strong. Having experienced that I now know it was because I was opening myself up to such a vulnerable state on a frequent basis that whipped me into race shape. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time the going gets tough.

Until next time….

-dfj

 

Give Me a Break

No drive or determination. Lazy, and weak….

Ever hear these terms being used to describe kids up recent generations? Maybe I’m being a little dramatic with a few terms, but the sentiment remains the same. I can agree that the way twenty-somethings around my age can be perceived as such above mentioned terms in regards to their upbringing. I’m a great example of someone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their life but continues to do very little to change. I can see someone making the argument (on face value) that someone such as myself is preventing someone in a less privileged setting from a better life. It is a sad truth to face that there are people who are undeserving of their inherent success. Nevertheless we continue to live and strive for and existence worth meaning. I would like to make the case in defense of those a part of my generation and some who may not be very far from this type of lifestyle.

I have lived in the United States all my life. To go even further, I have yet to leave California. I believe I have a good understanding of the socially acceptable values of a capitalistic upbringing. Since childhood we are as a species pressured into striving for the highest level of success, getting the best grades possible. Getting accepted into the most credible schools (a sham I could expand upon but will save for another time.) Seeking the highest paying jobs businesses and companies have to offer. Finding the most attractive and valuable mate and starting a family. This is the Americanized rat race of life. We are all familiar with and have accepted as the foundation for our own definition of success. Ever since I was finishing high school, I felt indifferent about this entire process. College didn’t seem like a viable option for me. Ever since I opted out of the traditional path of the SAT’s, college apps, seeking prestigious universities, and a six-figure salary, I knew the rat race wasn’t for me.

One thing I do hold of value to this day is genuine human interactions. This is way more important to me than the amount of money I make at the end of the year. Sure I have a steady job and can afford to keep a roof over my head while living below my means to support a lifestyle I enjoy tremendously. When it comes to long-term goals, I find myself in a thick foggy mist of confusion and disinterest. I am convinced that those of previous generations followed and believed in a live to work lifestyle. Which would explain why older generations get upset at younger generations who choose to live (in relation to their own) more relaxed and less ambitious lifestyles. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard the phrase …. so much potential being used in references to my peers. It’s not to say that I disagrees with what is being said. I would just like to make a case for the effort that is being applied.

It may seem that kids nowadays are wasting their lives away. I would strongly disagree. One of the most prominent qualities most of us possess is a sense of urgency. We may not be following a traditional path into adulthood, but the things we hold near and dear are met with a strong sense of self worth and priority. No matter what the topic of discussion may be, whether it be work, relationships, hobbies, leisurely activities, or sex, they are met with relatively similar senses of urgency. Most of us are aware of why we are doing things whether they be socially popular or not. We are still able to approach the task with our own form of drive to meet an end goal. What more could you ask for.

As much as I enjoy riding my bike, every time I leave the house there is a sense of purpose whether it is for interval training, or for coffee in the afternoon. I am enjoying my time spent during the task at hand (to the best of my abilities) but avoid half-assing my efforts at all costs. Some people may disagree with this approach to all activities, (especially when it comes to bike riding for more recreational purposes) and while that may be fine for some, that is not what is best for me.

This goal driven process is just as important as any other plan that we may come up with. We shouldn’t look down on one another just because the things we choose to accomplish are socially unpopular from one another. Maybe it’s the southern Californian in me speaking, but while it may seem like people of our generation are just relaxing all the time, I would urge you to take a deeper look and attempt to justify beyond a reasonable doubt that your assumptions are sound.

Twenty-somethings of this day and age are more engaged than we are given credit for. We keep our heads above water, contribute to society in less capitalistic ways that are still crucial for a genuine existence, and are enjoying our time spent here. If not, it would be blatantly clear. Until next time….

-dfj

The “M” Word

Personal notes are no longer personal….

I would like to take some time out and speak on the subject of masturbation. Before everyone gets all giggly and slightly grossed out, I implore you to stay the course and keep an open mind on this one because I believe I touch on some valid points that could be beneficial. My relationship with the “M” word is a mixed bag. Having gone through the phase of binging on the typical addictive and slightly destructive substances as a young pubescent adult, I have now developed a strong dislike and dare I say “hatred” for such a task. 

Masturbation can come in many shapes and forms. We are all familiar with the sexual form no matter your gender, but people often fail to realize that there are many other types that aren’t as direct an gritty as the most popular form of pleasure. I’m going to loosely define masturbation as a way of self-nurturing in order to seek pleasure and a state of familiarity one would normally get from their surroundings. The act of creating something on your own to avoid the social resource is the aspartame to me on a social level. It is a synthetic substitution that poses dangers to the self on both superficial and deeper levels.

As we grow into adults we discover that we do have the power to make ourselves happy and that it is possible to isolate ourselves from the population and live a somewhat normal life. We explore these methods as we go through puberty. Some of us cling to this form of self sufficiency more than others. Problems can form in the form of addiction. We begin to believe that further human interaction to achieve the same satisfying result is possible and eventually becomes a thing to be desired. There is a shift in priorities for some of us, and we begin to see how low we can sink. 

I’m not implying the act poses no positive outcomes. We all love to get our kicks in many ways. What bothers me the most is the type of isolation it creates. Many of us may not realize the damage this can be causing in both an intimate and non-intimate relationship. I know I’ve had my failed attempts due to my previous beliefs of self-nurturing behavior where it didn’t belong. Damage can be done to the user and the partner on a transparent level. Someone may all of a sudden not receive the same amount of attention from their significant other and begin to question the source of this lack of interaction. Not only that but the user is convinced that their partner is no longer as high a priority as they once were. 

If you are aware of the type of isolation this can cause, it is most surprising to see how quickly these waves of emotions can come into our headspace. We cancel plans and throw out human interactions altogether. This may seem like a plus when a short amount of thought is been devoted, but later (and sometimes when irreversible damage has been done) we realize the pain we have caused for ourselves and to those around us. 

Human interaction is a beautiful thing. As much as I like to get lost in the mountains on my bike I find human interaction of equal value (and human interaction while on the bike is, I’m sure you guessed it, euphoric.) We are social creatures and there is scientific research that shows significant health benefits from a healthy amount of interaction with others. I’ve been living at my new place for almost two weeks and immediately enjoy the company of another person there with me. While I’m trying to find the balance between a healthy interaction between cohabitants and unhealthy smothering, time spent is enjoyed in all forms. 

So to take such as thing as powerful as human interaction and substituting it for something as selfish as masturbation is an ugly and destructive thing to do. It may be satisfying momentarily, but if you are unaware of the psychological damage it can do, it may be too late before you find yourself isolated from your peers. Sure there are those who can still interact with others while still getting our kicks alone, but like all addictive habits, it takes a strong mind and discipline not to cross the thin line into a harmful form of self indulgence.

See, not so bad after all, right? Until next time….

-dfj