Monday, August 30, 2010

Dualistic weekend

Busy, hot weekend of self-created challenges. Got done with a ten-day on-off series of work shifts Saturday morning and powered out to Red Star Kennel, in Hudson, Wi., where Mark & Irina were hosting a French Ringsport trial. French Ring and Mondio are similar, with small irritatingly nuanced differences. The French are all about aesthetic nuance, which can be a pain in the ass for the non-French. Or me.

I put Shrike in for the Brevet solely because the Brevet certifi
cate is the sole 'prize' in all of dog sports that I truly coveted. There's something vastly old-timey and slick about the certificate, and it harkens to the early days of dog stuff. Big shiny trophies might fill a case, collecting sunlight and dust equally, but the Brevet paper speaks to days and dogs of yore. And better mustaches.
Shrike hasn't been training much, not with the crack-like presence of any decoys, but the Brevet routine is so short, I hazarded it would be doable. He is so twitchy that the muzzle exercise do not go well. He spins out of control with in a few seconds of confused discomfort, and, from there, goes nuclear. I knew we'd lose most of the muzzle points but figured much of the rest would be fine. Except there are so many small differences between the two sports that I made lots of small errors--in part because I spend so much time trying to will Shrike not to spin off his axis on the field.

We passed ugly. It was a generous scoring by the judge, but they view the Brevet as a walk and chew gum test. We'd have been dinged enough to borderline not pass a level one (except he'd have done well for the added OB exercises). The dog is a marvel of impulse and explosion.

The FR3 dogs were really strong and fun to watch. Good to see how training pays off. Good to see a slew of old friends and internet acquaintances. That night, Annie and I had a mellow date: robbing banks and stealing ambulances, just like the good old-timey days of courtship. AKA, Thai food at home and walking to watch Scott Pilgrim vs World, which was really funny.

Got up early Sunday to drop my stuff off at the pit for the duathlon. Then, from 0745 until 0920 or so, I stood around. I understand their need for crowd control etc, but it's a bit silly to stand around, waiting. Hey, I had it easy: rolled out my house, down the street, across the bridge, and there I was. Other folks drove hours to do it.

MFD crew represented again: Chad Saloka, Ben Pena, DaRoss Jones, Shana Dooley, Amy Powers. Last year I pulled the fastest time of us. This year, while I hoped to repeat, my focus was to post fastest single-speed bike leg. But then my calf cramped the first step off the bike. I had to walk, limp, shuffle the second leg. Chad and Ben came in about 1:50. DaRoss at 1:53, with me a minute back. I still can't figure out how those guys get through the transition zones SO much faster than I do, but I improved my time from last year.

As I explained to the girls afterwards, it's a challenge within the challenge. We all want to go out and rock the race, totally kick ass and blow others (in our minds) away. Reality is, we're all rank weekenders, which is fine. We're chasing vanity and curiosity and pleasure. My calf turned to cement and I pondered quitting--not because I was in such pain but because I felt my 'record' slipping away. 'Screw it, I'm going home to sulk. I've got an excuse...' but the test is how we face adversity (used lightly and mostly ironically here) and make decisions when things don't go our way.

Can't imagine the amount of $$$ collected in the bike pit yesterday. As BSNYC might say, A mighty herd of Freds breaking all sorts of non-records.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Man. Not the Man. So very The Man. Really, Not the Man

I wear a badge and ride in a shiny red truck for work. My charming disposition alone allows me access to most every building in the city. What? Oh, perhaps it's the badge and truck, not my winning wiles.

I go to various Co-ops for organic self-regard and free-range smugness, where I/we have been members since before half the bakers were lesbians and/or vegans, and I get the cold fish-eye of liberal, anti-authority resentment. 'Screw you, Man.' I browse for the same shit everyone else browses for, but I get the hard-inflectioned demi-curiousity: 'May I help you?' 'What are you looking for today?'

Eight-dollar-per-# strawberries, is the answer, just like every working man.

When I shop co-ops with my work partner, he gets more of the same, leavened with a frisson of liberal guilt: He, too, wears the badge of shame patriarchal war-machine, he has a mustache...but he's brown-skinned! Holy conundrum, Fish-fan-man. We want to hate The Man for keeping us down and thwarting our struggles, yet we're not allowed to be mean to minorities, lest we be seen as intolerant... Oh, the agony. (And, yes, Ben appreciates your Free Tibet stickers on the Subaru.)

When we do inspections on Lake Street, the mercados and tiendas are generally run by immigrants getting exploited in Sabri-owned shitholes. We walk in, badges and radios and vested authority, and we're met w/ dull terror and long-standing mistrust. I can understand it. I try to explain we're doing inspections on every building in the city, but between cultural and language barriers, there's enough wariness to prevent ease of interaction. I feel for the store workers, and I also have a responsibility to prevent asshole landlords from exploiting immigrants, whether in the stores or the shitty living quarters above, to the point that a small fire turns deadly.

I'm certain many inspectors come in w/ enough Minnesotan baggage that the exchanges aren't polite or helpful. Ben and I speak decent Spanish, and try to be flexible, but the wariness remains. End result, also, is that the fines on the building will cause eviction or harassment of these legit workers. Sad deal, but I can't let them work/live in deathtraps.
We had a debate about which was more tragic/pathetic (generating of pathos, ie) of our first couple calls this morning: woman w/o insurance having some sort of seizure; bone skinny, racked with bruises and skin infections. Unsure if she'd been beaten or just took such horrible care of herself, and smoked so much for so long, that her skin had no perfusion. In a dark, dingy, dusty, depressing house with two equally cowed, frail adult daughters, and two hard-looking, sullen men. OR, the pair of adult alcoholics who, after a bottle of vodka and case of malt liquor (per usual), fell over, whereby he struck his head, then a few hours later fell and struck his head again. He was so cocked we couldn't get a coherent word out of him, other than some bragging about being a Marine and being ready to kick our asses--so, a typical drunk--but his pupils were disturbingly unequal and his breathing was labored and the foam at his mouth didn't seem like toothpaste. His old lady was no better, absent the head trauma. She went from concerned about him and whining at us to help him to HOWLING that we were hurting/killing/hurting him, and WHY WHY WHY were we doing it?!?!?!?!? when we started to load him to get to the hospital. Drunken drama, with a possible brain bleed to boot. Sad and stupid.

It's one of those days that the accumulation of stupidity and hard-times, plus shitheels and walking tragedies, plays hard with tempers and timing, and the wrong tone/word shoots out at the wrong call. As if the enslaught of pointless shit outstrips my humor and patience, and then the call where it's in full demand, all I've got is a headache from too many smoke-choked apartments and no humor from too many self-created dramas.

Is there any wonder it's hard sometimes not to be a glue-veined prick to the smugly insolent at the co-op?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Create your own adventure, the grown-up version

I ventured to lower Wisconsin last Saturday for the Dairyland Dare--recruited in the ice age of February by my girl T-bell. She tried to get me to do it last year, but I was out east. Her report then: HILLY as hell, plus hotter than Hell. AND, at least Hell's a dry heat: this was soupy upper-midwest humid hell.

So, I should have known what I was getting myself into. But you can't, until you get there.
We were planning on riding the 200 & 150K routes, respectively, but as we sat in the diner across from the Crazy Cow Saloon and stared mournfully at the weather forecast, we scaled back. Expected highs were over 90 by midday. It's been hot for a while, sticky and wet and unpleasant. Global warming deniers can suck my sweat-stained socks.

Saturday morning, we got up way too early for a recreational activity, in order to get on the road early. Even though we crossed the start line about 0700, the humidity and early sun were brutal--and the first hill came in the first mile. Steep as shit, making me glad I hadn't chowed down right away, lest the burning taste of puky oatmeal and bagel be the hallmark of my morning.
I was drenched in sweat before reaching the first water spot at 15 miles. I was squeezing my fists to force the sweat out, like squeezing a sponge. The hills were no joke. I repeat: the hills were NOT FUCKING AROUND. Whoever says midwest is flat isn't wrong, except for these hidden crevasses where the ice age chased the last mammoths to their exhausted, frozen deaths.
For most of the ride, I amused myself thinking of C. Lander, of Stuff White People Like, and BSNYC, whose clever prose and spot-on critique of cultural things would make them great roommates, or not. But truly, white people like artificial challenges. We like to pay to gather together with our wildly expensive and over-qualified recreational toys and, in a group of like-minded and skilled folks, push ourselves for no good reason--other than to talk about it later. And put photos on facebook.

There were lots of Basement Olympians there. Semi-professional group riders. Dudes who take themselves far, far too seriously. It was great to see people of all shapes, sizes, conditioning, & ages working hard and having fun. I chuckled at the random breakaway guys who zipped past everyone, feeling like Cancellara. 'Seriously, my man, you're in Wisconsin. Chill out and smile, at least.'
A team of overly serious trainers whizzed by me, twice. Their leader was like Dolph Lundgren, and about as humorous. If I could have kept up, I would have, and made inane conversation as we went. But they were chasing PRs and monitoring their wattage, while I was trying to keep my hands from slipping off the handlebars.

Having only done a couple century rides, ever--and both in past two months, as part of a gravel road-race ('race') series spearheaded by Chris Skogen/Almanzo Hundo, whose mission is to run free, self-sustained group rides--it was interesting to see how luxurious this game was. Generous and friendly volunteers everywhere, laden with fruit, water, munchies, etc. Very different from the DIY spirit. Regardless, these events require massive planning and effort by the organizers--that's nothing to sneeze at.

It was a good, brutal mental test. Not knowing the course or how many hills remained effectively obliterated my focus and confidence. I was crying uncle/aunt by mile 30. I re-scaled back my goal for the day: not 200K, not 150, either. I'd do a hundred at respectable pace and be done with it. The money was already spent. It was only my pride preventing me from being rational--and convincing me to soldier through the illusion of pain.

I wasn't alone in the rough waters of self-created self-turmoil. Many others were getting their asses kicked. We ALL chose, and paid, to do it. My friends in the military might have chosen to enlist, but what-all they're confronted with is certainly less of a whimsical adventure. People starving and homeless, ill and ill-prepared, they are facing real challenges. We were simply riding (very expensive) bikes through some hills in Wisconsin.

At a water stop, I texted Tbell (again, how rough is it when my hardship isn't making fire from earth but finding good reception for my vanity phone?) and learned she, too, had scaled back, and was, in fact, already waiting for me at the end.

Good: I knew the end was certain and could 'push' myself the final fifteen miles. Wrong. I was shot and stuffed, tattered and battered, slanted and enchanted. Oh, maybe not the latter. Pavement would have been music to my ears, but I figured headphones were gauche.

Felt like a ton of bricks dropped on me at the end. Discouraging. Ate and zombied about, then drove back. Within a couple hours, we both had false confidence: 'Dude, we TOTALLY could/should have done more... NEXT YEAR, we will...'

Monday, August 2, 2010


I must admit I wasn't particularly gracious about summer's advent. I'd become adjusted to my kid-free daytimes, and the sudden shift was bracing. Still, we fumble and stumble through everything. Girls are awesome to hang out with--which is a plus--so it was always a matter of my low-grade selfish whining. Tug of responsibility and whatnot.

Harper said she really wanted 'something big' to happen to/for her this summer, perhaps a result of feeling eclipsed by her older sister in all things, and the letdown of kindergarden's end. So, she's learned, or allowed herself to achieve, to swim unfettered by floaties. This was a matter of overcoming her non-negotiable wariness of putting her head in the water. Once she passed that: fish-esque. Then she (finally) lost her first tooth, followed in short order by her second tooth, its neighbor.

Flann and Harper both have gotten into cycling, and we've been toodling about for much of the past couple weeks. Pretty fun to share an activity.

Weather. Swelter. Whatever.
Off to east coast to visit my folks. Return to work on-off-on-off for half-a-month (stupid).