18 October 2009

A Modest Proposal

I started a long blog about how negativity in the workplace feeds on itself and poisons the atmosphere, and I decided it was getting too involved. So for now, I'm just going to say this about that:

Save your drama for your mama.

I'm serious. I love you guys, but I can't work in an atmosphere of anxiety and perpetual worry over gossip. I'm going to have to start working from home a lot more, because I keep being interrupted by the latest scoop, the newest rumor, the most recent update on how we're getting screwed, either at work, at the bank, or by our insurance coverage.

It's not that I don't care. I do. But I'm distractible anyway, and what I'm doing requires me to focus. And your anxiety and negativity exacerbate the knots that weren't in my stomach until you started going on and on and on.

Instead, let me propose this: We form a team. We're already allegedly that, so let's act like it. Let's enact a few rules, and police each other to see they're followed. The rules I propose are these:
  1. If you can't say something positive, shut your pie hole. Go to your desk and write a journal entry if something's really bugging you. Or schedule a meeting with your manager and vent in a private room. And close the damn door. Schedule "services" for Our Lady of Consumption down at Proof on Main or Los Aztecas, meet your “bitchin' buddies” for a beer after hours, and complain all you like – then leave your complaints at Our Lady's altar and come back to work with a more positive perspective.
  2. Participate. We're having a chili cook-off, I hear. If the first thing out of your mouth wants to be something snide about "fiddling while Rome burns" – stuff a sock in it. Pull out your chili recipe and your Crock Pot and get cooking. Plan to be there, taste everyone else's chili, and make a point of bringing your new, positive attitude. If you come to share the camaraderie, we'd love to have you. If you come to complain, we're going to ask you to leave. The point is, some of us are trying to foster a sense of unity and cohesiveness and positivity in a somewhat anxious world. We'd love to have you join us, but only if you're really going to join us.
  3. Make fun. That's partly to say, if you can think of something more fun than a chili cook-off, let's see if we can get it off the ground. I personally think we should have some kind of a low-budget party every week for the duration. Create something to smile about. But it's also to say, if Mr. and Ms. Negativity show up at our parties and try to bring the mood down with their own gloom and doom, laugh them out the door. Stop playing into it. We don't have to accept the status quo.
The bottom line is, things get bad, then they get better. We can stew in our juices and get more and more depressed (and less and less productive), or we can get off our butts and seek out something to feel good about. Sink or swim, kids.

I prefer to swim. If you want to sink, go right ahead. But do it quietly, and do it somewhere else. If I can actually help, by all means, ask me. I’ll listen, I’ll offer suggestions, I’ll give you a pep talk, I’ll go to bat for you. But if all you want is to share your negativity so I’ll see and believe how shitty your life is and get on board the Doom Boat with you, forget it. You’re on your own.

14 October 2009

Pedal on, regardless

Day 1: Flash flood watches, in addition to heavy thunderstorm warnings. First day ride was called off. Eight hardy cyclists went anyway, and the rest of us worried about them all day.

Day 2: Bro. Bob convinced me (easily) to take the short route, which picked up at the first SAG stop and thus shaved 20 miles off the total ride. Then, at midpoint, he suggested I take the SAG truck to the next rest stop and resume the ride there, to make sure we got in before dark. By the time we reached said stop, my front tire had gone totally flat, and despite all efforts from the young man driving the SAG van from Lindsay Wilson College, it would not hold air. Not for nothin'... So it was back on the truck for me and Nellie Belle. I completed about 30 of the intended 90 miles.

Camp Acton: Great lasagna, good beer, excellent new friends and old relations! Enjoyed the evening immensely, and am eternally grateful to everyone who got the bike back on track: the anonymous donor of the appropriate tube, the guy whose name I can't remember who got it properly installed and aligned, and Nancy, who found a tube donor and coordinated the whole thing! I have to say, I've never met a Nancy who wasn't up to any challenge!

Day 3: Skipped the first leg on the advice of Nancy, who planned the route. She said, "If you aren't sure you can do the whole thing, go for the second part. It's beautiful." She was right.

I started from Lindsay Wilson College, after brunch. Bob left ahead of me -- totally fine, since by that time, we were each on our own agenda. I ended up walking about the last third of the very first hill, before ever even leaving town, and the second. Rode the third in low gear, but walked the fourth. Somewhere about half- to two-thirds of the way up that hill, Ed Stodola passed me. Ed is the "founding father" of this ride, and I'm not sure whether it was just my second wind kicking in or my latent competitive streak, but something gave me a kick in the butt at that point. That was the last hill I walked!

From there on, Nellie Belle and I rode the hills. The first few were tougher than advertised, but then they began to ease up. Not so obvious at first -- it was easy to say, Oh, I was ready for that one, or even, Gee, that wasn't as bad as it looked! I still had those 'Anne Lamott moments' -- the ones where I'd see a hill coming and start praying, "Help me, help me, thank you, thank you," before I ever even hit the incline. And the ones where I'd see the hill and the first thought in my head would be, "Oh, shit."

Not far into the first day, I stopped greeting great downhill runs with a reflexive "WOO-HOO!" It didn't take long before I learned that what goes down must go back up -- and after that, when the "down" came, it came with a caution. I did have one reprieve: the downhill run about 2/3 of the way to the second rest stop on Sunday. I wish I'd stopped to take a picture or two! The road surface was horrible, the route twisted and turned like nothing I've seen since we drove across Chunky Gal in western NC years ago... The limestone loomed on the right all the way down, the woods dense as midnight on the left, and when I shot out into daylight, into that long valley of meadows and cows and sunshine at the bottom, it took my breath away.

And before that -- flying down that mountain -- oh, my God. It was flying. Even though I had to keep tapping my brakes, even though the surface kept wanting to throw me, in spite of the sense of being a runaway train, all by myself... This is it. This is what it's about. For me, this is the essence of cycling: sitting on the seat, hands on the bars, leaning into the wind and flying. Just flying.

Altogether, I rode about 20 or 25 miles before the SAG van came back for me. I'd told one of the other riders to tell them to wait for me, and I was about a mile from the rest stop when they came over the ridge. "Get tired of waiting for me?" I asked. "Yep," the driver answered.

So there you go. I was bringing up the rear and holding up the show. I rode about half of the last two-thirds of the course for day 3.

But that is beside the point.

No excuses. I wasn't prepared. I hadn't trained hard enough. I didn't ride the whole route.

But -- these are not excuses. These are statements of fact.

There's no way to know what you're getting into on a ride like this until you do it. I had no idea, and I STILL did the best I could.

One of the women who does long rides regularly told me I had "more balls" than anyone she knew, because if this had been her first ride ever, she'd never have done another one. Can't say as I have any balls, other than balls o' yarn, but I appreciate the sentiment and I'll definitely do it again!

The route was a bitch on wheels. Bro Bob allowed as how, if he'd done Day 1, he might not have been up to Day 3. I dunno. But now that we know what it looks like, I'm committed to keeping up with him next year.

I'm back on Weight Watchers, as of today. I've scheduled a fitness assessment at the gym, and I've requested a personal training program.

I don't care if I'm the first one with "front wheels in" in 2010. But I have every intention of being there!

07 October 2009


Friday morning. Liftoff...

Back in February, my kid brother (who's only 50-ish, as opposed to being MID-50-ish) overheard me talking about an organized three-day bike ride and told me if I'd do it, he would. Since it entailed my driving from Louisville to Carrollton, KY, and having Ed pick me up around Bowling Green, KY, and Bob driving from (and back to)the D.C. area, I thought -- what the hell, it's his gas money! And promptly found myself, shall we say, "in the soup."

All summer, I've been riding my bike most of the places I meant to ride, not nearly as often as I intended. I've probably racked up about a third of the miles on my "wish list," which is going to send my friend Stacey screaming if she reads this, because it's supposed to be all about commitment, but as far as I could figure, the commitment was to do the ride. In between then and now, I had to give my best shot to getting ready.

Last Sunday, I rode from home, in the Lyndon area of Louisville, to the St. James Art Fair, down in Old Louisville, south of downtown. It's an annual event, one of my favorites, and it was a great ride besides. I rode to church, then down Frankfort Avenue to Nancy's Bagel Grounds for a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, then took back streets to St. James Court.

One of the delightful things about riding -- as if I'd never mentioned this before (or assuming you've never read my blog before) -- is that you get to know your surroundings in a whole different dimension. By mid-summer, I knew the best back streets to get downtown or home, and I knew a couple of alternate routes for a really good workout. Sunday, I rode through the Highlands to Swan Street, then over to St. Catherine. It's not the upwardly mobile part of Louisville, but I love it. In the Highlands, it depends on where you are -- really, which side of Bardstown Road you're on, I think. By the time you get down around Lynn's Paradise Cafe', made semi-famous on Bobby Flay's "showdown" show, it's already starting to lean to the funky side of bohemian, and beyond that, well, skip the boho. It's funky. Period. This is a good thing.

Perhaps, when I am old and gray, if I happen to be living alone and don't feel like messing with this house any more, I shall buy myself a shotgun house on St. Catherine Street on the easternish edge of Old Louisville, near Third Street, kind-of-sort-of in the general vicinity of St. James Court.

But I digress. (Pogo stick!) Friday. Oh, yes, indeed...

Friday morning, we depart Carrollton, KY, at 8:30-ish a.m. (BTW, I live on "ish time." In case you hadn't noticed. And I don't do "early.") The first day is about 60 miles. I can do that. I did 40 last Sunday, by the time I got done going in circles around the Scenic Loop in Cherokee Park (got on the loop and couldn't get off...), and I know I can do 60. The question is, can I do 90 the next day?

We shall see. Oh, yes, indeedyroo, we shall definitely see. I am getting ever so slightly anxious, but not so much as to call it panicky or anything. Just a little edge of self-motivation going on.

Tomorrow, I go to the office for one more day this week. Yesterday I was there for 10 hours, today about 11. I have two major projects and one that's not as "major" as the business owner would like to believe that must be nailed down before I leave tomorrow evening. And so they shall. Tomorrow morning is Project #1, from noon to about 2 p.m. is #2, and then I shall devote an hour or two to #3 -- the one that's not so much all that. And then I shall come home, pack my paniers, and ponder the importance of this seismic shift in my identity.

Friday morning is liftoff. Friday morning I make the official transition from Weakling, Slug, Sorriest Specimen the Gym Teacher Has Ever Seen, etc... to Athlete. Sometime in June or July, I became an official cyclist. In August or so, I decided to shoot for the Senior Olympics next year. But this ride makes it official. Makes it real. Makes it inescapably, irrevocably, absolutely, documentably true: that I am an athlete.

T-minus 19.75 hours and counting.