Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday Magazine Page

We've been moving house recently, and it has taken my usual urge to reduce my material goods to even higher heights. 

I'd already gone through my old magazines.  Round one was selling the old BMX magazines that I faithfully moved from place to place, but never actually read.  Met a guy at the mall and away they went.  Rounds two and three were to go through the MTB magazines, and get rid of the ones that contained nothing of any particular emotional currency.  A good third went away.

But now a scanner has come under my spell, and so I can have my old mags and eat them, too.  You know what I'm saying.

So in honor of this event, I present to you the article that was the seed which burst forth into my current masochistic state of cycling.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Most Beautiful Sound I'd Ever Heard...

 "...I was aching to be somewhere near,
Your voice was all I heard
I was shaking from a storm in me,
Haunted by the spectres that we had to see
Yeah I wanted to be the melody,
Above the noise, above the hurt."

When I was 15, it was 1985.  My youth group was going to some big event called Lifecheck.  My mom wanted me to go.  I was opposed.  I went anyway, and it changed my life.  I saw a couple of things that day.  People who acted like their faith mattered every day, not just on Sundays.  A DJ who played only Christian music.  A subculture of people I felt a lot like who listened to said music.

And U2.

One of the seminars I chose to attend that day was Christian Rock Music.  Sounded like a ridiculous contradiction to me, but what did I know about rock music, anyway?  I hadn't listened to much more than the REO Speedwagen, Ratt, Chicago, and Journey that they played on the radio in those days.  Oh, and Air Supply.  You know, the hard stuff. 


Well, knowing now what a divisive force U2 can be among Christians, I can now tell what a miracle it indeed was that whoever led that seminar chose to share the music they did.  Steve Taylor, for one.  Other things I don't remember.  Crumbacher.  And at lunch, he invited us to come back and watch "Under A Blood Red Sky".  From U2.  On a huge projection screen.

"I was young
Not dumb
Just wishing to be blinded
By you
Brand new
And we were pilgrims on our way
I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world"


The first few times I heard this song, I was a typical academic about it.  Thinking about Bono's past, about Ireland's troubles.  About how I knew Bono had written the song about seeing the Ramones in concert.  It wasn't till a few days later, driving to my job with Kathy, that it hit me.  I was listening to Bono sing about his musical awakening and how it changed his life, but the song was really about me.  About U2's effect on me that day in 1985.  I remember it as rainy, but that really could just be because of "...Blood Red Sky" and its famously rainy setting. 

Could there be a more romantic introduction to any band?  The rocks themselves.  The rain. The fog.  The fires.  The white flags.  It’s still touching now, but to a 15 year old, it was quite simply magic.  I went home and got the cassette at Kmart of Blood Red Sky, and listened until I knew every note, every syllable of Bono’s yelps and Edge’s counterpoint, echoing, chiming guitar. 

That day started me on a musical journey, one that had me listening only to “Christian” bands until college (and what does that mean, really?).  But U2 always stood outside of that.  How could I justify not listening to a band that sang “If I had anything- anything at all- I’d give it to you” and “to claim the victory Jesus won on Sunday Bloody Sunday”?  I didn’t know it, but my decisions about these four Irish boys (and back then, they weren’t much older than boys either) and their music were forming me spiritually into the person I’d become right up to the present day.  I saw faith, out-in-the-world, credible, nothing-to-fear-from-the-world-we-live-in faith in them.  I saw that Christians could compete right alongside everyone else and didn’t have to- shouldn’t, even- live in a ghetto known as Christian Rock.  I saw that while God is certainly worth singing about, there’s a great big world that can be sung about, and some great big problems in it, that also need to be addressed.  See what I mean about it being foundational?  No wonder I’d never be satisfied with “Give your heart to Jesus.  No, literally.  Give it!” evangelicalism, and its art.

But I’m getting needlessly philosophical here.  Because I sometimes thought about those aspects, sure.  But what I was hearing, what I was experiencing, what I saw on that big screen, was just… magic.  How do you describe The Edge at his best on some of those songs?  “Seconds”, for example?  Or the scratchy guitars in the middle of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, while Bono is parading around with that white flag?  You can’t, not really.  You just hear a song, and it makes sense out of the world.  We all know this.  That ecstatic electric guitar moment, of Hendrix burning his guitar, or Johnny Greenwood’s guitar tweekery on OK Computer?  Or thousands of other such moments?  You just know.

“Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.”


Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Story About A Dirty Rag

Hey, Maurice, Tyler, thanks for accepting my invitation.  Don't know if I'm gonna have much to offer you here, but your names popped up in my contacts and I thought, what the heck.

So for these two "subscribers", let me tell you all just a little bit about myself that you don't know [BIKE CONTENT ALERT]

I first rode a mountain bike, a yellow Ross, at Schwinn Bicycle Center, in New Castle, PA.  I was a BMX kid, about 16, when I first started working there, and they had me put together new bikes.  Didn't do any repairs, not even fixing flats.  That was Brian Park's job. 

Due to the influence of the guys in the shop, I decided to buy a bike, but would it be a road bike, or a mountain bike?  There was a group of guys that did road rides from the shop all the time, and with the influence of the stacks of Bicycle Guide the guys gave me, along with the fact that Bob and Brian considered MTB just a fun pastime for when they weren't training (which should sound very familiar to anyone who's seen the movie Klunkerz), I bought a road bike.  A Schwinn Traveller.  Steel and lugged.  And I did ride with the group and did my first century.  Remember hitting 55 MPH tucking down a hill.  But in retrospect, I made the wrong decision.  Should've bought the Moab earlier.

So I traded in my GT BMX bike for a Schwinn Moab in sparkly british racing green.  Loved it.  Loved everything about it.  But it wasn't until I'd moved to New England, that I really started riding it. 

That was also when I discovered a magazine called Dirt Rag.  Printed in Pittsburgh, the city where I was born.  I wasn't sorry I'd left PA, but DR gave me a little dose of home every issue.  A bike magazine like I'd always loved, but instead of talking about California like every other magazine in the world (MBA in particular, and BMX Plus before it, and BMX Action, and Freestylin', ad nauseum) they wrote about places I knew or was at least familiar with.

So I've always had a special place in my heart for DR.  Even got published in it once.

Gotta go if I'm gonna fit a ride in.  Some Surly content next time, promise.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


"...A million dead-end streets.  And every time I thought I'd got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet  ...I watch the ripples change their size, but never leave the stream of warm impermanence" -Bowie

"If the businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would,
 then I guess I'll just begin again" -Arcade Fire

If you're anything like me, you have a taste for adventure, but mostly you want things to stay the same, but with small, trivial changes.

 Not by my, or our family's choice, things in our lives together are changing.  I don't mean that to sound mysterious.  My father-in-law died.  Simple, blunt, shocking, and abrupt as that.  He checked into the hospital on his own two feet, and the next day, he was dead.  Details aren't enlightening or important.  If I may indulge in just a moment of navel gazing, though, I've spent the last few years worried about frontal attack (Kathy's BC) and from nowhere, my father in law is gone.  I've built a thick brick wall, and someone left the back door open.

Now the wonderful work he did of taking care of Mary, my mother in law, who is quite dear to me, falls to Kathy and her siblings, and we have agreed to move in with Mary so that she can stay in her home.  There's some positives and some negatives, but both are immaterial it is so obviously the correct thing to do.

Nevertheless, change is afoot.  Change for Lucy, who's only gone to one school, ever, and had her closest friend in nearly every class with her.  Changes for Kathy who will likely do more taking care of her mother than I will.  Not such dramatic changes for me, just a different (and let's be frank, NICER) home to return to after work.  Closer, more accessible bike trails.  The highway's nearer.  All major positives as far as I'm concerned.

But (cue Garth in Wayne's World) I fear change.  I don't like to adapt. And Lucy hates transitions.  So there's that.

More to come.  I mean, moron this later.

Rachel's Post

Hello, and welcome to my ONLY reader of the new regime I'll call (just for now, you understand) the Big Brother Regime (and I mean that in the 1984 sense, not the reality TV show)

Thank you for being a friend to me and Kathy and Lucy all these years.  I was walking around the fair with Lucy last night and thought of you for a moment.  You know, the miracle sweater and all that.

We both fed a baby llama last night.  Wow, that was sure cute.

I'll leave it at that for now, but thanks again for being the first to respond to my invite (I didn't think Google was going to invite people, just allow them to pass if they stopped by.  Shows what I know.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fatbike: My Maiden Voyage

I can't pretend I took a ride on sand or snow.


I rode a specialized fat boy fat bike today and I can officially say I just don't get it.  Heavier tires?  To this degree?  Maybe in fringe conditions, the grip and flotation make this heaviness feel worth it.  I can't say.  But to me it felt the way my bike feels on 3 inches of pine needles.  Slow, with lots of resistance.

For disclosure's sake, I started out on freestyle bikes with hard tires, then road bikes with rock hard tires.

And I've had enough pinch flats to last me a good long time.

So I'm used to decently hard tires,

They say traction is the big deal with these bikes, and I sure felt that, but I didn't want it.  Traction so good it makes the bike resist turning.  Not impressed.

I like to steer my bike, and I've never found myself looking for more traction.  So this concept, at least in this brief ride, was totally opposite to my desires.  Maybe if you're looking to steamroll the trail, this is a good idea?

But if it would float on the top of deep sand and/or snow, it would all be worth it.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I see that I've had thirty pageviews today.

Are you all expecting something.

Cause I don't know about it if you are.

Do I have something published somewhere unbeknownst to me?

Well, here's a short update for you.

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary, so happy anniversary and thank you to my wife, and congratulations to us both. 

I also got a big ol' back tooth pulled yesterday, that was causing me much grief in the jaw region.  You can check out my xrays on Instagram if you'd like, but leave it  thiat this:  I was driven to distraction, laying on the floor holding my head and moaning.  Infection.  Nerves.

So now I'm one tooth lighter, which is okay, because I had the tooth below it pulled a few years back, and I guess they only work well in pairs.  But this is where I draw the line.  No more tooth loss!
So, floss and brush out there, folks (I do both, but I guess not enough.)

Been reading The Road.  If you haven't you should..

And now how about some pictures, ok?  Ok.

This photo is owned by Walnut Studiolo, who make all the leather stuff you
see here.  Check them out on Etsy & Google and buy their stuff.