BY Mark

07/01 Direct Link

I want Lance to win.

I'm a big fan. I've been following the Tour and Lance's career for years.

The mental ferocity required to win time trials and mountain stages is beyond conception to us puny mortals.

Yet, I feel sure that Lance is an asshole. I think he's way too intense and single-minded to have the social lassitude that relationships often require.

I don't expect my heroes to top the charts in every category. It would make me suspicious.

I'm bemused by people who boycott great artists (e.g., Woody Allen) or great athletes in protest over their extra-curricular activities.
07/02 Direct Link

We were in our prime.
Seniors with looks, charm, imagination, and bright futures.
But we had an uneasy relationship.
Chris stole my women.
I abused his trust.
Just a few misunderstandings, really.
It all washed out pretty well in the end.

There was this argument about John vs. Paul.
I had just bought an album by Wings.
Chris said that John was the greater talent by far.
I felt defensive, having just spent this money, and I ended up carrying Paul's banner.

It's been nearly thirty years, and I still cringe.

I made some dubious musical decisions in those days.
07/03 Direct Link

Joe had women.
Tons of women.
An insatiable appetite for sex.
We were in college, so we all had raging hormones.
Joe was different.
He never had the same woman twice.
He was indiscriminate.

I was intrigued.
He showed me "How to Pick up Women."
I used to see this book advertised in the back of magazines.
I had gotten burned as a kid when I ordered "X-Ray Specs" by mail.

Joe swore by this book.
"It works."

The first line was "Didn't I meet you in Istanbul?"

"You're kidding, right?"

"The best line in the book," he said, straight-faced.
07/04 Direct Link

Dead of the night on the mall in D.C.
Jesse wrapped one leg around the branch to secure himself in the tree while he lit the hash pipe with his freed hands. He looked into Melanie's eyes, and quickly down her blouse, then he handed her the pipe.

A park service helicopter hovered overhead, and splashed the stately old tree with a billion candlepower. It seemed impossible that they cared about his buzz, but Jesse cowered with paranoia in the shifting shadows.

At least Melanie wasn't freaking out. But she was taking an extra hit out of turn.
Not cool.
07/05 Direct Link

Dr. King was adamant. "I said you could use my bike. So use it!"

There weren't a whole lot of ten-speeds around in 1964.

I cruised the unfamiliar neighborhood. Pittsburgh was new to me then, and surprisingly hilly. I was pleased to have made it to the top of the local monster climb, and eager for the rapid descent that was my due.

It was so steep that I was overspeed half way down the hill. I began, too late, assessing the situation. There was a tee intersection at the bottom. Gravel at each corner.

It was a hideous crash.
07/06 Direct Link

The pictures looked okay on the computer, but when the prints came in from the lab, there were details I hadn't noticed before.

That wattle, yes.
The lines, sure.
But the overall look was, well, bucolic.
I looked like Farmer Jones come to pose with the city slickers.
It wasn't the clothes, either.
I was coming across way wrong.
I don't mind looking real, imperfect, even plain. But I don't want my looks to misrepresent me so.

I'm cosmopolitan.

At least in public.

At home, I'm a rube with a quick temper, a scary voice, and a fish-monger's mentality.
07/07 Direct Link

I looked across the room of empty desks at Phil. Sorry bastard.

What's he doing here, anyway? What work does he think he's going to get done, with everyone else gone?

Will they ever be back?

What am I doing here? Just going through my routine, because I don't know what else to do.

Will they hire replacements?

Oh, God, I don't think I can do this.

I'm happy for them. Yeah, right.

Okay, I'm happy for Jane. I wonder if she'll give me any?

What's her cut?

One sixteenth of two hundred million is twelve million five hundred thousand.
07/08 Direct Link

The forty pound dumbbells seemed lighter today, and as Thomas watched himself in the mirror he worked on keeping the strain of the exercise off of his face.

He always had an imaginary audience during his exercises; a nebulous, nameless woman who knew Thomas's dedication to his health,
who watched with him as the veins swelled on his biceps and forearms,
who whispered encouragement and admiration into his ear along with vague promises for
something, someday.

Thomas needed her to make him do the third set.
To push that extra bit.

No way he could do it on his own.
07/09 Direct Link

Don't do that. Christ, you've been running a road block for the last six miles and now you're cutting me off at the light?

What now? Jesus, would you get the fuck out of my way? Are you just determined to keep me penned in here?

Oh, thank Christ, I've finally got a clear shot. I know I let this shit bother me too much.
Only six twenty.
I guess it's not like I'm going to be late or anything.

Oh, Mother of God, here he comes again. First he's a slowpoke, now the fucker's shot out of a cannon.
07/10 Direct Link

If it weren't for Lisa, I would have languished in obscurity (or perhaps thrived in obscurity). I attribute my success to my powerful desire for Lisa's recognition and approval.
It was long ago that I last saw my (unrequited) love, and moreover many years since I have heard even the faintest rumors of her life.
Yet everything I do, I do with the thought that she might see me across the miles and beyond the years, and by the renewal of that connection she might also realize what a big mistake it was for her to ever let me go.
07/11 Direct Link

Not everyone has an appreciation for the way that a vital and healthy body can ease your way through this world. Some people have never in their lives experienced an even marginal fitness level, much less peak fitness. Some have forgotten the feeling.

An acquaintance from back in my college days seemed to have an appreciation of this notion, for he marveled at the physical condition of an Olympic athlete we were watching on the TV.

"Just imagine how that guy could party!"

I still remember that guy for his unabashed attitude towards his own lifestyle of such divergent priorities.
07/12 Direct Link

I pass the kids some grief disguised so well it leaves no trace.

They learn to yell and gripe, and now he's even slapped her face.

It's really so important to put them in their place.

Compliance is a pleasant place to store a child's soul.

There's time enough for them to be an individual.

It's justified. On top of that, it worked so well on me.

Disregard the fruit that's stinking on the family tree.

The legacy will not be broken. I planned, but lost volition.

A slate, once clean, is sullied with marks of old. It begs revision.
07/13 Direct Link

Your comfort zone grows smaller as you age.

"Hey, I know what I like. It's an advantage to being older. You don't waste your time doing stuff that doesn't appeal to you."

It makes some sense, but between the lines you can see an excuse for never trying anything new, for never meeting anyone new.
For risk-free, comfortable living.

"I don't have to worry as much about getting hurt. Yeah, both physically and emotionally, I guess. But I'll live longer."

If you call that living.

Living fully, feeling vital and alive, means taking the bad with the good.

Risk it.
07/14 Direct Link

"But that was supposed to be confidential!"

"I'm sorry, but we are required by law to disclose any information which could reveal a drug or alcohol problem."

"So why the hell didn't you tell me that from the beginning?
My God, you're a psych professional. Doesn't this violate some ethical standard?"

"I have a specific mandate in this situation."

"To do what?! Ferret out those damned alcoholics by tricking them into revealing their problem?"

"It's not like that."

"Bullshit! I decide to take a step toward self-improvement, and you bastards shove it up my ass."

"Our time is up."
07/15 Direct Link

Andy was the go-to guy on trivia and general information. He saved us a bunch of trips to the dictionary or encyclopedia. Everybody just asked Andy.

Until the new guy moved into town.

His name was always changing back then. One day it was Alta, the next day he said we could just yell Yahoo when we needed him. One thing was for sure, this guy had more information at his fingertips than anyone we'd ever seen.

A few years ago, he started going by Google, and he hasn't changed his name since.
He has a million answers for everything.
07/16 Direct Link

He did it again. That bastard. Why does this guy pick my place to take a shit? And right beside that stinking turd there's a puddle and a stream where the piss has flowed right over and wetted the cardboard. Is this guy out to get me in particular? I just got this place fixed up. Think it's easy to find a decent box? I don't know where I'm going to find another one. I just read where there's forty-one thousand of us in L.A. I'll try cutting out the bad part. I'd better hurry before it spreads some more.
07/17 Direct Link

I sang for the girl in the MG.

She picked me up on the Virginia interstate.
What a babe.
But didn't I have a babe back home?

Todd Rundgren's tune,
"It Wouldn't have Made any Difference."

I was suffering the consequences of an incinerating love.
Little did I know then that my emotions were being eviscerated, desiccated, and permanently eliminated.

But I had an inkling.
Which explains the appeal of the words:

"You just did not love me . . .
enough not to look for
a reason to be
unhappy with me,
and make me regret
ever loving you.."
07/18 Direct Link

Okay, I'm not going to cheap out this time.
Money's tight, sure, but it's a special occasion, and I'm celebrating family and good time, and I don't want her accusing me of being a cheapskate.
She asked for wings, so I got the giant bucket.
"They're too messy" she says.
The kids wanted hot dogs, so I got Super Dogs, four bucks each.
"Is that all you got them?"
But it's an expected response by now.

Everything else aside, I'm perplexed at my inability to guess at what is going to please her.
It'd be better if I didn't try.
07/19 Direct Link

A handicapped friend of mine used to refer to the rest of us as "temporarily able-bodied."
I try not to let myself become complacent about my good health and vitality.
Most days, I bend my mind in grateful reflection for a body that functions well and thus makes the challenges of life easier to bear.
All of this is due, in large part, from my experience with obesity.
I feel like I have wings by comparison.

I'm suffering with a cold today, and I'm imagining it as a peek at what old age might feel like.
Tired. Achy. Blasé. Defeated.
07/20 Direct Link

Our house is doing us in. I'm the type to take responsibility for my own troubles, so I've been discounting the negative effects that our residence has had on my family, but the evidence is piling up like sawdust on a woodshop floor.

The mold, sure, and the radon.
We've been living with that like a sick aunt hidden away in the laundry closet.

And the deteriorating shed, with the burgeoning wild animal population.

The roof going bad, the leaks in the basement, the sewer gas, and the mice.

And now all the shit is just closing in around us.
07/21 Direct Link

I started coming to Paris back in '04 for the entire month of July.

Just for the Tour.

It got to the point back in the States where the spotty and delayed TV coverage was leaving me unsatisfied. On top of that, there was virtually nobody to share the excitement with.

I longed to sit in a restaurant with fellow expatriate cycling enthusiasts and watch live coverage all day.

I couldn't find a spot that fit the bill precisely.

So I opened my own.
Just off the Champs.

By the time Armstrong won his eighth tour, I was money ahead.
07/22 Direct Link

If Mom's not happy, nobody's happy.

She doesn't mean to fulfill this notion, but the correlation is unmistakable.

Thus, my marriage has gone downhill since I mastered my anxiety.

It used to be that a conflict with my wife would start my guts to grinding so badly that I would be both mentally and physically sick the rest of the day.

I needed to protect my sanity.

If you can't raise the bridge, lower the river.

I looked at my reaction to our conflict as an indulgence. A choice. Then I chose to not indulge myself with piteous self-flagellation. Ahhh…
07/23 Direct Link

When I was a beer drinker, I didn't eat sweets.

Though rarely drunk, I drank plenty (five cans on weekdays and easily eight per day on the weekends).

I've never seen anything in writing to support it, but I have to believe that the beer (and other alcoholic beverages) somehow satisfies the craving for sweets.

These days I'm forced to resist some powerful hankerings for ice cream and sweet cereals (I have yet to give into the temptation of Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter), but there is a particular locally-made bear claw that reduces even my legendary willpower to whimpering defeat.
07/24 Direct Link

Aaron is a prince of a guy.
Great smile.
Great handshake.
But when he looks directly at you, there is an uncomfortable intensity in his gaze.
A fire, white hot and fierce, burns behind his eyes.
You get the unambiguous message that Aaron is not a person to cross.

Tales of Aaron's darker side reach even my remote location on the grapevine.

The experienced Road Rager (he got impatient at the hamburger drive-thru and pushed the preceding vehicle out of the way).

The Mr. Hyde of the workplace (he poured Doug's chili down the inside of his shirt).
07/25 Direct Link

Am I alone for having suffered for years the discomfort of socks bunching up in my instep?

What brings one to a place in their life where you say, "Enough!"?

But you can pay a lot for socks these days.

Socks of silk, Merino wool, Spandex, high-bulk acrylic, and numerous wicking fibers.

Then there's the infinite variety of designs (piano keys, airplanes, clowns, animals of the Serengeti, and kittens with balls of yarn).

I finally found white athletic socks that I like, and the supply dried up. Even an exhaustive internet search failed to unearth the object of my desire.
07/26 Direct Link

Erik was always going on about his great marriage.
Sensual massages and dance classes and flowers and "We're best friends."

It made me rather ill, although I knew myself well enough to attribute my reaction to my own difficult marriage. Yet my intuition that his was a doomed marriage was not schadenfreude.

The divorce seemed to surprise everyone. Erik remained tight-lipped, but the sharks at work were upon him, their version of community support being to rib him about his crumbled marriage.

Erik's public relations campaign had defined him so specifically that he was a stranger in this new context.
07/27 Direct Link

There is only residual dampness in the concrete beneath my bare feet and a light breeze around my calves as I look up through the branches to evaluate the overcast for rain.

I am on the fence about this bike ride today.

I know on the one hand that I am physically ready and eager for the exercise.
I know that I will feel uplifted and in my element during the fifty mile city tour.

But I am four days sleep deprived and should probably sleep in for my own good.

I can't keep burning both ends of this candle.
07/28 Direct Link

The students lined up according to belt color, rigid and attentive, wary.
Even fearful.

The Grand Master, the Quai Ja Nim, entered the Do Jang, and additional stiffening rippled through the ranks.

Each student knew the stinging swiftness of his disapproval and equally the thrill of his praise.

The parents in the audience wondered at the Grand Master's power over their children.
Some envied it.

His smile was radiant and confident.

His body was sinewy and strong.

The room was quiet, the eyes of the students and parents were upon him.

He looked straight at me.
"Lose the hat, Dad."
07/29 Direct Link

I got the jump on him.
I don't think I could have pulled it off otherwise.

I saw him pull up outside of the Starbucks while I was waiting for my latte. The old fear rose up and heated my face; it kicked the fight-or-flight into high gear.

As he walked past the windows toward the entrance, I thought back to those times years before, when, as my sales manager, he had belittled and embarrassed me.

The time allowed me to move mentally to this new place, where he had no power over me.

I wanted to fucking eviscerate him.
07/30 Direct Link

"She's got the best hooters of the day," I said.

"I don't think she liked the way you looked at her," replied Jesse.

I reddened. I'm thirty years older than this kid, and he just laid me out cold. Not like he was trying to. He simply displayed a social wisdom that was apparent to him and sadly lost on me.

Did I just wake up one day a dirty old man?

I am dubious of older guys who appear to have conquered their desire.

I think it's all an act.

But a role that I must learn to play.
07/31 Direct Link

What am I supposed to make of this recent research which says that both thin and fat people eat the same things.
Same calories.
Same fat grams, etc..
And that fat people may actually be getting fatter by eating less than thin people?

I had some ice cream last night, but I couldn't finish it.
Years of food guilt has produced a brain which keeps pleasure and eating separate.

A sixth-grade candy buying spree most perfectly illustrates my personal definition of guilt.
This leaves me wondering if I ever in my life had a guilt-free candy bar.

I think not.