Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gotta be starting something

I often take pop song lyrics from the 80's directly to heart, and since I don't wanna be no vegetable, I've been starting many many somethings.

This week I made my triumphant return to the bicycle, I've been working full time at Trophy bike shop, and I've been slaving away in preparation for this Saturday's R5PPRFM.

I've got many glorious things in the works; including but not limited to setting up an Etsy shop, posting newer, more genius-er bicycle related designs, buying my first 'cross bike, and training for the D2R2.

So please continue to enjoy the internet documentation of my adventures, as I'm so busy in "real life" I've become rather impossible to keep track of.

Nature Vs. Nurture

I had a typical middle-American childhood. And by that I mean I was a depressed, friendless, awkward, chubby, socially isolated youth held captive by padded walls of modern suburbia. My concept of "outside" was that of a toxic landscape rife with spiders, snakes, and boogey-men; a place that one dared not enter lest one truly desired to be ravaged by the heat, sun, flora and fauna. Leave the house and the possibilities of victimhood abound; one could be the recipient of a watermelonesque welt from an unidentifiable insect or even be chased by MadDog swigging wilderness men. Or if particularly lucky, one could hike around the local canals and be the first to discover a freshly dumped human corpse--my fear of "outside" was not completely unfounded.

I have often expressed my disdain for heat and bugs and dirt and nature and being outside, and usually my tirades are intercepted with the lame yet well intentioned references to the beach. Oh yes, I am from Florida, and thus I had 2,000 miles of glorious shoreline to savor. The beach however is akin to a bowl of wax fruit on a table in a furniture store. I suppose it looks good in photographs, but there isn't much to really do with it. People go to the beach to sit on towels and get sunburned. Maybe they'll go into uncomfortably cold jellyfish infested water for six or eight minutes then sit around soggy for the rest of the day. Maybe they'll swallow some red-tide and have heinous diarrhea for a week. Usually a trip to the beach involves a lot of driving, getting sweaty and sandy, getting your car sweaty and sandy, and coming home with inescapable exhaustion yet having accomplished nothing. In short, the beach is for assholes.

Cycling was the first activity I came to enjoy that placed me inexorably inside the outside. At first I was just road riding though urban areas or riding a paved rail-to-trail which tended to buffer me from the real icky sticky of nature. But like so many first dates, one thing rapidly lead to another and I was borrowing mountain bikes to ride in the local trails; I was all up in nature like a bouncing balloon of narcotics inside a weary drug trafficker's duodenum.

While I built up a hefty tolerance to the outside due to my love of riding, my unease has eased since I moved north. From the first ride though the Wissahickon I discovered there is a different kind of nature here that is increasingly eroding my long standing grudge. There aren't alligators in the lakes or massive glistening webs filled with bird-sized spiders. I can even stop riding for a moment without worrying about attracting a swarm of rabid mosquitoes. The trails are dark because massive clusters of old growth trees have canopies which actually shield the ferocious sunshine.

It isn't merely the lack of irritating stimuli to which I had become inured that so rapidly changed my view of outside. The background noises aren't frantic insect mating calls but bird songs. The dirt here is rocky and full of mica so even the mud sparkles. The forests run along major rivers so there is always a breeze, and the patches of darkness are soothing. During the daytime rabbits and beavers frolic across the trail, and at dusk there are fireflies. The forest here twinkles with magical blinking creatures and glitter dirt and I have realized there is a reason the Transcendentalist poets were not from the South. Try and wax nostalgic about the swamp all you want, but I can not fathom romanticizing about humidity that makes you feel like a claustrophobic at a mouth-breather's convention held in a gas station bathroom.