Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Caledonia.



New gym program today, focused on track season. This means pylometrics. I reckon I've been looking forward to this all winter. Pylometrics are fun. Like, little kids competing with their friends fun. Jumping off things, bouncing high in the air, making funny shapes with your body. Today I kept getting distracted by my own giggling. Wednesdays at the gym are going to be ridiculous.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Julia.


Oh man, I tried to write another issue of my zine. I really, really did. I reread all the old issues formatted the pages, picked out a couple of lines of someone else's poetry, launched into some stories. But everything I wrote down was coming out wrong - the tone was too steady, the stories not funny. No matter what I did, I couldn't nail it. So I'm throwing in the towel.

In the name of not letting a commitment drop, however, I'm going to kick in some money, so that the zine store that supported me all of those years - Sticky - can continue to exist. And I'd encourage you to do the same. Zines may seem quaint these days, antiquated even, but that's perhaps when they come into their own. Like riding a fixie on the streets, the sheer stubborn difficulty of making and distributing a zine makes it worth doing, and we should all encourage it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little Wing.

So, how'd you spend your winter? I spent mine being sick. Some kind of weird virus got in to my system around April. I tried to ignore it, but in late July I finally cracked them and started seeing doctors. Lots of doctors. Who ordered tests. Lots of tests. It wasn't heaps of fun.

I went and saw lots of specialists, and gave blood for an ever increasing number of esoteric screenings, but it was my local GP who, while not solving the problem, outlined the likely situation. "There are lots of viruses out there that we just don't have a name for," He told me. "Someone will be going fine, then they'll be sick and really fatigued for three or four months, and then, one day, out of the blue, they'll just start feeling better."

I must've looked hopeful, because he continued. "Like Glandular fever. No-one knew what that was for a really long time. These seemingly healthy kids just got sick all of a sudden. And it's amazing how they developed the test for that."

Whether it's true or not, this is what I'm telling myself. That my sickness was just some weird virus that is, as we come into spring, finally working its way out of my system. Because I'm starting to feel better. I'm starting the track season a bit behind the eight ball, but I'm back on the bike and getting ready. It feels good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working On A Building.



Ok, ok, I'm not going to become a runner. Here's why. Last weekend I ran this event that was pretty well supported by a number of awesome companies. One of these companies donated a mag trainer, with the explicit orders that it go to the person who came last in A Grade. I worded up Dylan McDylan about this. He's an ok B-Grader at best, but with this prize up for grabs, he entered A-Grade, and consequently took home the goodies. Later in the week I received these messages:

DMcD: Are these trainers as effective if I sit up playing with my phone?
BJB: I usually do just that. Or read, or watch a movie. I'll send you some efforts if you like.
DMcD: You are sending me effort? Thanks! I need more of that. I'll send you some of my sweat in return. Cos there is so fucking much of it.
BJB: Yeah, that happens. Drink lots!
DMcD: I usually do?
BJB: Water, Dylan.

Five minutes later I received another message.

DMcD: I just threw up my pizza.

I remember feeling like that. I want to feel like that again.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Here's What's Striking Me.



About a week ago, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, I ordered a book about running. It arrived yesterday, and by this morning I had finished it. Safe to say I quite enjoyed it. Man, as I read, the memories came rushing back.

I used to be a runner. Or, more specifically, a sprinter. As an under 15 sprinter I was the fastest kid around, covering one hundred metres in a hair's breadth over 11 seconds (a PB of 11.03, if you're interested), winning a bunch of gold medals and even a state championship. I trained most nights and kept getting faster. It was pretty sweet.

But then the teenage years intervened, and the twin corrupting influences of punk rock and romance loomed larger than running really, really fast. I stopped training and stopped competing. I threw out a bunch of my medals, and used old athletics ribbons for wrapping paper. I was pretty much done with sprinting, and sport in general.

The weird thing was, I kept running. I'd go out to Pete's place, five ks out of town and probably ten ks from my house, to watch videos and listen to records til the early hours, then run all the way home. I'd go to parties at Gibbo's house in Concongella and, when the night was fizzing out, settle into a jog all the way home - a distance Google tells me is about eight ks. And one particular night, when my adolescent angst got the better of me, I started running out to my friend's place in Hall's Gap, making it about twenty ks before someone I knew stopped and offered me a lift.

I didn't ever prepare for these runs. I wasn't ever wearing running shoes, I never had a drink of water with me, I definitely didn't have an iPod in my ears, and I was probably wearing grossly inappropriate clothes. I never really thought about it. I guess I was just running for transport, in a way not dissimilar to Forrest Gump.

When I think about running now, it's with fear. Fear of the injuries that I sustained when I was a sprinter coming back to haunt me, mostly, but also fear for the welfare of my old bones and joints. But reading Born to Run last night reminded me that when I was running around the streets of Stawell I didn't get injured. Despite running in Chuck Taylors and baggy Yakka shorts, for kilometre after kilometre on shitty country roads and firetracks, I never got hurt.

There's something about the simplicity of it that appeals to me now. I'm nervous, of course, scared like I was that first time on the velodrome. But the idea that I could just get off the couch and run, just run until I was healthy again... well, you see where I'm going with this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Give It All Away.

Starting tomorrow I'm back on the program. Sure, it's a dramatically reduced program, but it's a program nonetheless. I've stuck it on the wall in the end room. I've written the hours into my diary. I've cancelled some of my appointments. I got an hour on the road here, two hours on the road there, and a bunch more time in the gym. I've started stretching in the mornings again, doing whatever little I can to ensure that when I start smashing my body in the hills and velodromes, my body holds up this time. I've had a long time off the bike, and it's going to be hard to get back to where I was. But this is where it starts.

I hope.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Justice, No Peace! No Peace, No Justice!


Ever since this post I've been making an effort to streamline things, in order to better concentrate on the things that matter. It's been pretty good. I mean, I'm still not training, which has meant I've got lot of spare time, but instead of concocting plans that will, at some point, inevitably clash with training, I've been doing more prosaic things, like reading, or writing this blog. That's pretty nice and all, but I'm still on the lookout for other things that I'm wasting time on. Which brings me to social networking.

I'm ok with Facebook. Sure, I have a minor addiction, but I never get all that worked up about it. I'm not addicted in the slightest to Twitter, but occasionally enjoy the links to articles, blogs and photos. I've also been known to use it to publicize certain events. If it was just those ingredients, with a sprinkling of email here and there, I'd be happy with the salad my internet experience has prepared. But instead, I end up wasting way too much of my time and energy arguing with randoms on messageboards. It's like eating that salad, then smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

Sure, there's a lot of good to be had anywhere a bunch of people congregate in order to share ideas. But it's easy to forget that on a messageboard Sturgeon's Law applies more precisely than anywhere else. I'll be cruising along, looking for sweet deals on Dura-Ace high flange track hubs, and then someone will suggest that Q and A is a really really great show and I'll be involved in some stupid flame war that keeps me tossing and turning at night, thinking of better and sharper rebuttals. On top of the time I'm wasting, that's a lot of emotional energy, spent building something out of nothing.

So I try to quit. And for the most part it's alright. But when there's five minutes to spare at work - when I have a bite sized chunk of free time, not quite enough to read a whole article on cyclingnews, but enough time to sit down at the computer and sink into the my own world for a while, there's not much more suited. In my moment of need I'm turning to you folks. I don't do Sudoku, can't stand crosswords, have already read the comics in the Herald-Sun. So when I have a tiny window of time, what should I do? What do you do?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Like A Wrecking Ball.



I've seen Cadel before, at this dinner I went to once. He beat me in a stupid competition I still to this day believe was rigged in his favour. After the dinner and speeches were done I wandered over to have a chat, but there was a lineup to speak to him, and I couldn't be bothered waiting around. I wasn't a fan of his then, but in the ensuing years the little bugger has grown on me. So while I won't be wearing yellow - because next to no-one looks good in yellow - I will be making my way down to Fed Square on Friday, to pay tribute to this bloke from Eltham High who achieved one of the most difficult things in sport. Mostly I'd like to shake his hand and tell him how downright rad it was to see him, with the weight of twenty years of expectation on his shoulders, with millions of people watching and the entire Tour de France at stake, pop a bunny hop in the final time trial. Yeah, I'd definitely stand in line for that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It Was My First Time. I Think She Could Tell.

I did an hour on the bike this morning, and it felt like crap. That's pretty much par for the course at the moment, so it didn't upset me too much. On the way home I noticed that Coffee Ben's Genovese Van was parked outside DISC. I'd bumped into Ben on Friday night and he'd mentioned that he had bought a new bike - the exact bike that I was all set to buy until Sean the Man got in my ear and talked me out of it. I was keen to check this bike out. So in I went.

This blog isn't about bike reviews, so I'll spare you the details, just saying that the bike looked hot and I had a twinge of regret. It was quickly forgotten though. Sunday morning sessions at DISC are mostly for track noobs, and there were a bunch around, looking a little excited. Jessie Jean was there and was totally psyched on her first time. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I remembered my first time on the track, following Nath's wheel higher and higher until I was at the top of the banks, giggling my ass off. We were supposed to be practicing flying 200s, following a more experienced rider. I didn't know him at the time, but I was following Sam McGregor. "Check it," I told my friends, "I'm going to go around him."

I threw it all at him, but couldn't quite go the distance. Sam was riding B grade at the time, and I'd never been on the track before. It was the first inkling I had that I could be pretty good at this. I was hooked.

And I reckon, after today, Jess might be too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Up Early In The Morning.

I've posted this before, and I'll post it again:


Kiss You When You Start The Day.

My history of traveling reads a bit like a history of temporarily empty bedrooms, bedrooms that were vacated by sharehouse residents then claimed by me through some often-tenuous relationship with the other housemates. In Glasgow, for example, I claimed Dougie's room when he was off at space camp, sitting at his desk overlooking the street, writing in my journal the stories that would eventually become my zine. There was something about being in a near-empty space, with only a bed, a desk and a chair, that brought out all the stories I'd forgotten or repressed.

When I stayed in Kit's room in Leeds, however, most of her stuff was still there. She'd just gone away with her family or something, and her room was only free for two or three weeks. I have vague memories of her being an English student or something, because her bookshelf was full of the usual suspects - a Norton Anthology, a Works of Shakespeare, a Pocket Oxford. But in between all of those thick, heavy-bound, thin-leafed works of enormity I picked out some blazing red poppies - the cover of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. It was the same edition my parents, on my subtle insistence, had presented to me on my birthday, a month before I'd flown out.



The edition of Birthday Letters in question.



Kit's House on Hessel Mount, Leeds, thanks to the glory of Google Street View.

When I started reading those poems again I knew what I was getting myself into, but it didn't help. The poems are restrained and desperate, burdened and impossible, like trying to communicate something vitally important, but having to do it underwater. A kid wandering aimlessly around a foreign country shouldn't subject themself to that kind of oppression, that kind of frustrated, useless helplessness. When I eventually left Leeds I also left Kit's copy of the book behind, but took with me these two lines, from 'Sam':

How did you hang on? You couldn't have done it.
Something in you not you did it for itself.


I no longer have that edition of Birthday Letters. I don't know what happened to it. Somewhere along the line I must've given it to some girl, or lost it in a trans-continental move, or left it on a train. In its place I have the newer edition, with the thick cardstock cover and the minimalist typeface, which I found in my own bookshelf earlier this evening. Perhaps an adult shouldn't subject themself either. I'm not sure. Mind you, I'm not sure of much these days. That's probably why I'm reaching for the book in the first place.

...I was dumbfounded afresh
By my ignorance of the simplest things.
- Fulbright Scholars

My Heart.



Complete record available here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Your Hair! Your Hair Knows!

For a while now I've been thinking about Davey von Bohlen. More specifically, I've been thinking about the way he dealt with his own sickness. I saw The Promise Ring in Toronto sometime in 2001, at this rad Exclaim! Magazine anniversary show that also featured The Constantines and a bunch of other bands who I was stoked on at the time but can't remember now. The show occurred about a year after von Bohlen had had removed a brain tumour the size of a fist. Up on the stage he looked skinnier than normal, uncertain at the microphone, more introspective than usual. The moment that stood out more than others - and is perhaps the only true moment that still exists in my memory - is of him standing on the stage solo, belting at his guitar and singing a song that I later discovered was "Stop Playing Guitar."




At the end of the song he locked onto the final riff, repeating it over and over, changing the lyrics slightly, so instead of "Stop Playing Guitar" he was singing, "I can't play guitar." Everyone in the audience must've known the context, and everyone in the audience's heart must've broken a little bit.

Now that I've figured out the song and read through the lyrics a bit, however, my heart is nicely pieced back together. It's not at all a song about not being able to play guitar. It's a song about what would happen if he'd stopped playing guitar - voluntarily, I guess. He talks about reading more books and going outside more often. It's a pretty positive song, befitting someone who had just escaped a terminal illness.

While my own - as yet undetermined - illness isn't terminal, it is changing the way I think about things. Not being able to ride my bike means that I have time to focus on other things, and I'm guessing that when I have time to ride my bike again, some of these things will linger. Like Davey von Bohlen reading more books and going outside more often, perhaps when I'm back on the bike I'll be more interested in aesthetics, or have a better pedaling action. Who knows.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Than Words.

Given that I can't really ride my bike at the moment, all the exercise I'm doing is going to the gym twice a week. That's about four hours all up. The last few weeks I've tried to go for a ride on the weekends, but it generally ends in tears, so I probably won't be trying again next time Saturday rolls around. This isn't as bad as it sounds - I'm happy to still be able to do something, and my work in the gym is going from strength to strength. However, going from twenty hours of training a week to four does have its drawbacks.

All of a sudden I have a lot of time for making plans. Despite sounding like a good thing, this is a very, very bad thing. I tend to make a lot of rad plans for excellent adventures and projects when I have a lot of spare time. It is one of life's great unfairnesses, however, that this spare time eventually comes to an end. Then I'm forced to once again juggle work, a relationship, training, and whatever new excellent project I've imagined in my time off. Which brings us back to where we were a couple of days ago.

It seems the toughest thing about this sickness is not the occasionally debilitating tiredness, but rather resisting the temptation to clutter this rehabilitation time (and future training time) with new projects. If I call you up in the next couple of months with propositions in mind, please tell me to go back to bed.