Welcome, enormouslock. I, too have been homeless, more times than I can count, and I've always enjoyed the crap out of it. I don't mind if you're our king, like Emperor Norton, it beats another carbon fiber kickstand-thread.
Oh my, this is a treat. I thought I was alone when I saw something more in cycling than the bicycle or the exercise, and through your posts I see a lot of it comes off as true, real life adventure.
I do a lot of writing about my journeys on a bicycle at www.thisendlessroad.com and I enjoy it, but I often have to tell what’s interesting and entertaining to other people, or, in other words, things that I have already completed (physical and mental tense). I’ll treat myself and stand up here on the soapbox with you, but with no intention of touching the metaphysical aspects like you do.
Life doesn’t happen like a story, an episode of anime, or whatever fictional medium that floats your boat. I’m not talking about canons, plot devices, the love interest, or anything like that. I’m talking about how these things start, those small details about the characters that are overlooked for sake of an interesting story. I don’t know about most people, but my favorite stories start with a friendship made, a companion gained, from a complete stranger under the simplest of meetings.
I was riding in Northern California on 101, and ten miles south from that wild unexpected travel stop of Garberville and the massive, looming redwood forest that followed it, two cyclists heading the other direction waved me over. Two German brothers, with eyes passionate like fire, and voices that boomed loud as thunder with bodies that shuddered with energy that would explode if held down and restrained. In the persona, the way the waved me over, and the warmth and brotherhood I felt just talking to them, I knew that these were the cyclists that I wanted to be. They ignored my rare, legendary Bridgestone RB-T, just like I ignored their bicycles, and we talked about not those things that one would worry about before going on a tour, but the things that actually mattered. This was so refreshing after hearing bull**** after bull**** from the Californian Racer, who usually thinks them the same as me, when completely different.
One would jump, scream, holler, all with a bicycle between his legs, bending the very laws of physics to himself and his companion would turn every now and then, hold a hand up and wave him down, whispering as he looked around “Too loud, brother, too loud.” They talked vivaciously of two girls on bicycles that they had heard about two days ahead of them, and when our conversation came to a close, the loud brother screamed, “What the hell are we waiting here for! To the women!” and they blasted off down the road.
This tore me open as I rode. I had fallen in love with the way these two guys had lived, and they seemed just like the people in my books, my anime, and those movies. If I had a chance to go back, I would of left with them, and we would of traveled to the ends of the earth and adventure together. For the rest of the trip, I wondered in my mind, deep down and pushed aside, what it would have been like with those two brothers. What was it like with them when things went bad, when that energy went out, when anger replaced joy, and what was it that they really rode for. This is my tribute, to another couple of good friends lost to the will of my own desires.
Thank you for sharing your words. Since picking up a bike almost exactly a year ago, after not having rode for 20 years, I have found myself spiritually again. It's refreshing to hear from others who find riding a gateway to the soul. I always knew there was an adventurer inside, I just had to find it, and the people I have met are all a part of it. I have been encouraged more by strangers than my own family, which is surprising to me, but I'll take it as it comes and from whomever it comes from. One who rides a top notch racer or a piece of cr@p, barely held together junker bike can experience who they truly are on a bike. I was locked away in my home for 20 years and it feels so great to be alive again.
dude though i think you're a bit loopy you're right that any of us riding long and lonely tours could be viewed that way so...
the 'legend' is a bit odd too, but i've seen riders do week long tours on a Schwinn Stingray, on a tandem with an inflatable gumby doll on the back and wierder just to draw attention or get a laugh.
Some call it God's country. I call it Acton, Maine
Too Many - 7 or 8
Most folks never take the time to contemplate their position in the trip we call Life. Most seem content to just get through the day, then the next, and then the next. Often this is because of the demands placed on them by others or by themselves. Not many have had the luxury or interest in understanding the why of anything around them. Dealing with the physical demands of living without considering the needs of their souls. I am guilty of this also.
You, apparently, have spent a sizable portion of your life doing what most of us should be doing. Attempting to understand the small connections of people and events that end up making us what we are. Your words were well received here in Acton, Maine. Thank you.
One source of my inspiration came when I read about a Europeon expedition that came upon a high mountain pass that their autos were unable to cross. They did what anyone in his right mind never would have thought of. They disassembled their autos, carried the parts on foot past the obstacle, reassembled them on the other side, and then went on their way. When you are in the right place in life but you encounter a barrier, you teach your surroundings who you are, and you get by it.
Homeless in Detroit in 1997, I had run out of options for surviving in a law-abiding manner. I noticed a couple of young kids, twentiesh, chatting nearby in a park where I was seated late at night. I just had a sense that I needed to make friends with them, not for asking help, just because I felt my only hope lay in making a connection in a laid-back manner, as if I wasn't in desperate need of help. I sat there as I got more and more nervous about the possibility that they would go away and I would have missed my only chance. Finally, I screwed my courage to the sticking place, walked over, and introduced myself, as casual as casual could be. The guy and the girl were friendly, engaged me in conversation, and told me that if I wanted to survive homelessness in Detroit I should go out to the suburbs, Royal Oak and Pontiac, where his girlfriend said there were several fine shelters. The guy offered me use of one of his ten-speed bikes to make the trip, so long as I called him when I arrived to arrange for him to pick it up from me. I began to feel blessed far beyond my expectations, but also felt I had been right that meeting the couple was the answer to my predicament.
We arranged for a meeting the next day and at the appointed place and hour he arrived with his bike. I had a notebook and recorded his phone number, then took off.
I arrived in Birmingham, just past Royal Oak on my way to Pontiac in the middle of the night. As I was approaching a lit intersection I realized it was a good idea for my own sake to mark the event with a legend. I got off the bike and looking at the intersection as if it might have a traffic camera, I set down my legend in earnest.
Lance began his run of Tour de France victories in 1999, if my arithmetic is correct, two years after my Detroit legend in the land of the auto-makers. Seen probably by no one, perhaps it took longer to cascade outward in cause-and-effect than my Santee, CA legend in 1986. My friends at the side of the road in Santee would be interested to learn of this sole repeat of the legend after I passed them at that time, and it's odd pre-dating of the Armstrong era.
CRUM, your comment about small connections reminded me of this story. I'm glad you have gotten something out of my remarks, and I appreciate very sincerely your taking the time to express yourself in the way you chose to.
Incidentally, I collapsed by the side of the road the next day in Birmingham, MI, and a bunch of people stopped to see what was wrong. I just felt like I needed attention. I told one woman I felt like I was on an expedition. She said, "I hear ya" and called an ambulance. Before they carried me away to a shelter, I gave her my notebook and asked her to get the bike to its owner at the phone number I pointed out. I don't know if he got it back. I hope he did.
CRUM, I wanted to also mention that in 1974 I traveled from Boston to Kennebunkport, ME over a weekend and found nothing but forests in Maine, real God's country if you ask me. I knew the older Bushes had a house there but I didn't know where. It rained the night I arrived and I knocked on someone's door to ask if I could sleep on the floor. It was an elderly lady and she politely refused. I got wet in my sleeping bag and caught a cold but by the time I got back to Boston I'd lost it. A few months later I became mentally ill. A few years later I got my second bachelor's degree.
biodiesel, I think really that no entity considers itself fundamentally wierd. We all would like to think that we fit in somewhere, unfortunately some of us take a long time to do so, and for some it comes beyond death. I was told by someone I respected very much that the highest yoga in the world is not to fit in. Right after he told me that I was to become homeless and this was apparent to us both. He offered me a place with his ashram but I thought better of it. As Ravel said to Gershwin, better to be a first rate Gershwin than a second rate Ravel, so Ravel refused to become Gershwin's teacher. I chose the Tibetan yogi, Mila Repa, to be my teacher. He died in about 1000 AD. Now I don't believe in the afterlife. Then I thought it was a nice relationship with someone who wasn't going to put any restrictions on me. I have some unorthodox views on spirituality. Maybe I'll get around to them here eventually if theres a bicycling connection, if only a "small" one.
The story reads much like one would find outside of the western world. We are very linear thinkers and like nice linear stories. He told a circular story--dwelling on the context and the events around the story in what seems to be an unrelated sense. The point is to be derived, it is not given. "Hero" is a classic example of such a story. I would imagine that enormous lock has spent some time reading eastern literature. As a linguistics consultant to missionaries, I teach them the art of telling our stories in that fashion.
I have a detail to add to my brief comment about my first fight with a gang in the night in Santa Cruz, CA in 1981. Actually a lot of detail.
The fight started as I was sleeping on a bench on one of the main streets downtown in the middle of the night. I was awoken by one of the gang members rousting me from sleep and telling me something offensive I don't remember. I immediately noticed there were several others in the gang dispersed about my position, all menacing.
I saw the danger and got up and dashed into the street below the closest street-lamp. The gang adjusted its array a bit but waited for me to make my move. I suppose they expected me to run. Instead I found myself in exactly the position I had planned for a few days before as I was practicing Tai Chi Chuan up in the Santa Cruz mountains on the campus of my second alma mater, The University of California at Santa Cruz. I wanted to prepare for the contingency of being attacked by a group of assailants. I carefully worked out where I would look if I wanted all my attackers to think I had both my eyes open, but I really was alternating them one open the other closed, then the one closed and the other open. By continuously turning in a circle I found that it was possible to monitor the changing array of attackers at the same time that I was fooling them about keeping one eye always open but them thinking I always had both closed. I found the place in my field of view that could serve as a station for this action, one along the edge of my right field of view, the other on the left. I had to learn to coordinate the direction of my turning with my cadence of left and right, open and closed, so that I could keep my sense of control to the point where I could fool my attackers. Little did I know I would be using this technique within a couple of days.
So on with the fight.
First I instinctively raised one leg while I crouched with the other and at the same time raised both my arms and bended my wrists with my fists in the form of a swan's head. As I did this I hissed loudly. The gang began to move in slowly.
Then I went into my turns and alternating eye movements, just as planned. I kept track of everyone in the gang and they hesitated to move in for the kill, seeming to be confused by my appearance, just as planned.
With those few moments to collect my thoughts and come up with my next move, I decided to make a slow walk away from the scene, through the array of the gang, which had crystalized into their positions.
The one who had woken me up got closer to me and I stopped. I needed to show some strength.
I decided to assume he knew nothing about fighting despite his offensive behavior, just to give him the chance to show me exactly how much he did know about fighting. I had taken AiKiDo at UCSC for two semesters but I had no intention of getting into a contact action with him at that point. I assumed a white belt mentality to equal him, if he would take it, and held out my hands and performed a warm-up exercise we used in class. Then I asked him, "What does this mean?"
He looked taken aback, whether at my innocence or at my boldness it didn't matter. I told him little about me and he told me much about himself when he answered, "You'ld better take the arts seriously." Of course he meant the martial arts and by his intonation I knew he wasn't a black belt. I didn't have to worry about any death blows.
So I started moving again, over to the main intersection in town, and stopped, because the guy and another guy followed me there. I separated my feet a bit and put my hands together flatly at letter high position. The two gang members stationed themselves on either side of me within striking distance. We stood there for quite some time silently as they sized me up and I waited for a non-lethal blow. Bam! My original attacker kicked me right in the crotch, with apparently all his might.
At that point my testicles had reacted to all the tension by raising up. A lot of men have experienced this, for example in the cold. Therefore the kick dissipated in my flesh without really doing much damage and I softly said to anyone listening, "I am not hurt."
My kicker guy's jaw dropped. Before he could change his attitude a much shorter guy came out of the shadows, reached out his hand to me and shook it in greeting, saying, "Welcome to Santa Cruz!"
That was the end of the fight.
A group of people, male and female, passed then quickly through the space of the final scene and as I had been suspecting an earthquake might occur within a few days, I said, "There's going to be an earthquake. A 6.0." My calculations proved fairly accurate as the newspaper reported a 5.5 a day later. (I don't remember the exact numbers but I'm representing them here as closely as I can.) As the group passed through the space, one of the females looked at me closely and said, "No, it's not him." Evidently the gang thought I was some other homeless guy who did something weird, based on a report from that girl. I also maintained the possibility that her remark was a foil to get the gang off the hook easily after being humiliated, sort of.
The next morning or so I was awake and sitting downtown when I saw an old station wagon rolling slowly down the street. It was covered with camouflage painting and the words "Earthquake America" were written crudely on its side. On the top of the roof, outside, was a square box in which were sitting four dogs, bloodhounds, arranged in a pinwheel shape, alert and sniffing the air. Then a day later the earthquake struck. I didn't feel it. I just read about it in the paper.
Okay, I also have to admit I ran into the kicker talking to somebody in a suit the next day and I lifted my leg and said to him something like, "How about a testicle massage on the other side now?" I said it really mockingly. I have to say that I did this because I considered my victory incomplete and was opening the door up to him messing with me some more. I just felt I was a more capable foe than he and believed that in the light of day, with a suit standing by, I stood a better chance than he did of surviving a gang war. Right after that, though, I just let the whole thing drop. But I know that "someone who didn't know did something terrible" as some woman told me years later, and it might have been this guy who kicked me but didn't get to enjoy it as he expected.
Inasmuch as I am a legend, when all is said and done, I have two things to leave you with. One, as king, I am everywhere. And two, inasmuch as you wish to be with me, you may count yourself as having started down the road.