Aug 15, 2018

Drowning with Land in Sight

So there I was, floating along with my arm around an overturned and slowly-sinking kayak. My knees hurt from the impact with the wall, and I was kicking my feet in a sort of sidestroke in an attempt to steer... somewhere, and keep from getting sucked (or maybe pushed?) under the floating docks in the river.

A little background is in order. A few years ago, they rebuilt a small bridge between Danversport and the area near the school where my wife works. When they did this, they built a sort of isthmus rather than a standard structural bridge. So when the tide goes out, which it was doing during the time of which I speak, it rushes quite quickly through the two relatively small tunnels that were built to allow for the movement of all that water. And I had just paddled through the outgoing current to achieve a place where I was between both, and checking if either would be feasible. I decided neither was, and the shortest way back to the water was the paved boat launch on the other side of the current that I'd just paddled against. But here's the key: there's a big stone wall right next to the launch. When the current comes out, it pushes the water against this wall.  So I'd tried to build up speed and approach diagonally. But before I knew what had happened, the kayak was pushed into the wall, and I believe the water pushed the side closest to it underwater, thus achieving the flipped over kayak.

So the boat and I reached the floating docks. I reached up and grabbed one of the tie points, so beyond all question, I'm fine (This was all happening quite slowly, so I was quite certain before this, but you know what I mean) But Mr. Kayak, not so much. It had been flipped over (I was afraid if I put it right side up and held onto it, it would totally fill and sink right to the bottom) and was floating quite low in the water. I pulled myself out with the help of a friendly boat (I know, you expected I'd just grab the dock and burst out of the water like Ariel in the Little Mermaid. But I'm just not that strong, especially after paddling for hours).

There I stand. But what's going to happen to the kayak? And would I have to swim back to shore?

I looked around and saw that the yak was floating parallel to the dock rather than being sucked under it, and using the paddle (looking back, I'm not sure how I ever held onto it---maybe it floated?) I nudged it close to the end of the floating platform. But could I get it out of the water?

Moving it little by little and using it as a lever against its own weight, I managed to break the suction of the water, and it started to drain. But even as I got it completely out onto the wood, and stood it on end, nearly half of the structure was filled with water. Like a standard plastic bucket, just without the wire handle---and 8 feet long.

Thankfully, these boats all have a drain hole. It took awhile, but the water level went down and everything got easier to handle (and it drained straight back into the river, what a timesaver!). While I waited, I noticed that in fact, I didn't  have to get back into the water, the dock connected to land via a metal "gangplank" (is that the right word? It can't be, but I don't know what else to call it). After the water was all gone, I hoisted the yak onto my shoulder and walked down the pier and up the plank.

As I crossed the road carrying an 8' long plastic boat (that weighs around 50 lbs completely dry), I heard the pickup truck that had been approaching hail me: "Hey!"

I turned, "yeah?"

"Don't evah come in heeyah! This 's private property."

"Okay..." I said. What else could I say? There's not really a response.

But as I put the boat back into the water and paddled for home (and another bridge under the highway but wider and easier to paddle through), I began to wonder--- did he see me get flipped and just wait to tell me to stay off their dock, as if I was enjoying myself? Or did he simply mean don't use their boat launch? Or had he simply seen me leaving their parking lot and was just saying don't come in there?

It's all a moot point, because there's a public boat launch on the other side of the bridge, and I'll simply use that from now on (and avoid the currents entirely). But it was a fitting ending for what had been a ridiculous drama from the very beginning.

So, who wants to try kayaking?

Apr 9, 2018

Whale of a Tale of a Whale

I don't know what it is with me and Moby Dick. The first time I read it was back at the tail end of the 90s, and I remember thinking I liked the short chapters.

Since then I've read it at least four times that I can keep track of (I like to focus on a theme each time, so my copies have markings in them that remind me of that reading.)

I try to figure out if it's an adventure story, or a grand metaphor. But if it's just a story, what the heck is up with all the Ahab/Fedallah hooplah. And why all the philosophical stuff? No, that can't be it.

But what does it mean, then? Maybe that's why I keep coming back---because there's absolutely no end to the layers (a lot like a whale, actually, but... whatever.) Melville's intended layers, certainly, but then---and in this way it's a lot like biblical studies---there's all the critical opinions over the years and just general readers opinions.

Just glancing at a diagram I made in the back, from one reviewer, is Moby the embodiment of evil, or just another whale---but more dangerous than most? Is he immortal? A total myth? Is he simply a huge whale, and thus a huge prize, both of glory and oil? Just a big smart fish---or, as Ahab has come to believe, the very power that limits and controls man? Is he god, like the crazy "prophet" Gabriel believes? How about the avenger of justice for the innocent, such as Steelkilt on the whaler Town-Ho?

I don't know, and I want to comprehend it, and I can't. And I guess that's what makes me love it. Not to mention the whales are cool and it's all about the ocean. 

As an aside, I hope this summer to travel down to New Bedford (which is only about an hour and a half from me) this summer. See the whaling museum, etc. The whaleman's chapel mentioned in the book. But then, I've said that for many summers!

A quick technical aside---In case you don't know, Melville lived quite a bit of this book. Not Moby, certainly (that was for the crew of the whaleship Essex, a story told in Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea) but he was a crewman on a whaler that left from New Bedford, deserted in the Marquesas, captured by cannibals (Queequeg, anyone?) on Nuku Hiva.

So, even in what many think is the greatest novel of American Lit, the author is basically writing about his own life. As does Thomas Wolfe in Look Homeward, Angel. And many others. I always thought  a novel came from some amazing creative spot I don't have access to, but the more I study it, the less I think that's true. The characters, perhaps. 

I plan to add a bit more to this, but for now I must go. Dentist's appointment, then the writing they pay me for! :) (With a bike ride in between).

Jan 27, 2018

Take It & Fake It: thoughts on some Christian art.


23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.  -Col. 3:23

Jesus is Lord over all the spheres of life, right?  

Do you agree?  Or is he confined to the church, and outside of those doors, He is powerless?  I doubt that you think that way, but maybe you unwittingly operate as if it's true.  Maybe WE unwittingly operate that way.

Well, if He's Lord of all the areas of life, then whatever it is we do, we should do it for God so as to be a proper witness to what being a Christian is about. God didn't create in a substandard way, and neither should we.

If you are a plumber, you should be the most honest, fair-charging plumber in town, known for quality work that is worth what you charge. If you clean toilets, you should be known for being willing to humble yourself without complaint, as Jesus did when He washed the disciples' feet.

We all agree with that, don't we?  When we read verses like the one that starts this article, we all understand that God calls us to excellence?

Then, I ask you, why do Christian artists not understand this?  Why is the Christian sub-culture so accepting of blatantly secondhand ideas?

Here are a few to show you what I mean.  Consider this my Wall of Shame for Christian artists.  And lest you try to tar & feather me, consider this  page of my website.  Maybe not the best piece of writing ever, but it wasn't someone else's idea (though I freely admit I got the bicycle wheel metaphor from a speaker at GCTS chapel, but let's be honest, I think we can agree that I likely know more about the bicycle wheel than they did. I think they might've spoken of straightening a tire...) 

(a note before I begin: though I believe what I'm writing here, I have no interest in disparaging these writers/musicians. I'm sure they worked very hard on what they put out and don't need me sniping from the sidelines---but I don't think that makes my observations less valid. Iron sharpens iron.)

"Sontreasure Island"
This VBS may be a wonderful experience for kids. I'm sure its creators wish the best for our children. I don't know.  What I do know for sure is that when I see its box looking like a blatant rip-off of Gilligan's Island, I want to call the people who made the TV series and tell them to call a lawyer.  Has this show somehow entered Public Domain without my realizing it?

My So Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife
I took a quick look at this book, and it looks clever- if it wasn't a double rip off.  First of all, the title makes me want to call Claire Daines (that's her in the famous ABC show that the title was taken from) and the concept itself comes from A.J. Jacobs' books- take the Bible literally and see what happens.  So... what part of this book DID Sara Horn come up with?

Then there's the 2013 Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Does this one sound familiar? It should, because the title (maybe the contents too? I haven't read them) is a xerox copy of a NYT best-seller and prize-winning 2004 book (also turned into a feature film) called Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. (Also, isn't the Yada Yada part from Seinfeld? I mean, he didn't make it up, but isn't that what popularized it?).

 Perhaps you're saying at this point, 'but maybe these authors have never heard of the books/TV Shows to which you refer. " I don't think so, because it's too obvious, but even if they weren't aware, that's what their publishing company is for.

Still, the ripoff is just too blatant to be blamed on that.  Just to show you I'm not playing favorites, here's one from a band that was close to my heart growing up, the Altar Boys.  Great group in a lot of ways, but when I finally heard XTC's "Life Begins At The Hop", it sounded uncomfortably like something I'd grown up with, namely The Altar Boys' "Life Begins At the Cross".  If they had simply credited who they were borrowing from, perhaps it would be ok, but listen to the two, and you'll find out how right I am. That makes me feel like I've been had.  Like I've had a trick played on me as a teen.  That the band was secretly laughing at me and my peers for being too sheltered to know they had taken a song's whole chorus (and title) from a popular "secular" band of the day.

There's a cynical phrase popular in cycling circles to describe how too many bike manufacturers make a product for women:  "Shrink It & Pink It", meaning just make a smaller size and paint it in "girly" colors.  Perhaps in the case of these Christian products the phrase should be "Take It & Fake it" (we have to copy the phrasing of the original, because as Christians we  can't seem to come up with our own ideas).

We steal ideas from 'The World', then rub salt in the wound (we're told in the Bible to be salt and light) by condemning the secular culture rather than crediting them, (since they are  'dirty', and to be looked upon as suspect and unenlightened) We make our own version of someone else's idea, which naturally comes out as second-rate because we aren't striving for any sort of excellence, since those we're marketing to don't demand better, and because that which is better is held to be "worldly", "fleshly", and "carnal".

'We don't need to worship the recording process and the tricks of the trade, we just record it the same old way and pray that Jesus annoints it.' Sure, I'm all for praying over what you've created, But do you see what a lazy copout that is? That, and all it represents?

We don't need to

  • learn new instrumental techniques, or use new sounds
  • pursue new directions or ideas in preaching or liturgy
  • struggle to come up with a unique plotline or structure for novels---or even put ourselves into them at all.
Or so they'd like you to believe. I don't.

Nor do I think that zippy guitars and flashy graphics will have any major effect in getting people to attend church. I think that when a person is ready, they'll be there whatever the service is like.
"When the student is ready, the teacher appears".

BUT, that doesn't mean we just sit around in a dirty old sanctuary doing the same old service again and again, because spiritually hungry people aren't convinced by the trappings. I'm not even talking about the trappings. I'm saying if we truly believe in God, and believe that he created us and sunsets and the green of trees in the spring and tulips and ocean waves, then surely we should be inspired to do the very best work we can in imitation of Him?

The End.

Jan 13, 2018

"Aren't You a Little Old for That?": Some thoughts about weight.

It might seem odd that at 45, I found myself in the back room of "Pierced Utopia" to get my ear pierced twice. You're thinking there's a midlife crisis mixed in there somewhere. And you're probably right. But that's not all there is to it.

I wanted for years to be---I should say to show that I was---the kind of person who did things like this. But I didn't, for the same reason  didn't do lots of things- I didn't want to be THAT guy. The jolly overweight Falstaff whose over-exaggerated persona, to me at least, spelled desperation. I know I'm too prideful, I know how judgmental I sound, but nevertheless, we've all known these guys. Life of the party, Hawaiian shirt, everybody loves them, but... deep down they're running away from something.  I don't say this to judge those guys, but to explain how I was afraid that anything I did to stand out would be judged. Things like taking off my shirt at the beach, or choosing neon shoes instead of black. Or a colored shirt instead of... black. I'm fairly bookish and introspective, so these things I wanted to do were pretty modest. But the point is, on some level I wanted to draw attention to myself, but didn't because I felt ashamed of who I was physically.

Nobody should feel ashamed of their bodies. I know all the ins and outs of acceptance, and I agree with them in principle, but I'm decribing how I felt about myself. I'm talking about feeling it on every uphill on my bike. I'm talking about feeling the looks that said: "You're a cyclist?  that You think you're ready to RACE? I mean, look at you---you must be new to this." All the while knowing that, no, I'm very much not new to this. I started riding mountain bikes in 1988, thank you very much. Do you know what it's like to not think, but KNOW that you have far more experience, know far more about the sport's history, have ridden with some of its greatest athletes, and in more places than somebody you're talking to, and STILL get that condescending look?

I've lost weight, and that's important. but even more significant in my life is the fact that for at least 20 years, as i helplessly watched my weight go up and up, i never lost the feeling inside that who I saw in the mirror truly wasn't me---and HATED seeing him there. Maybe that was part of the problem. I could see who I am now so vividly that I couldn't see honestly who I was at the time.

Maybe those of you who know me wondered why I entered those races I clearly wasn't prepared for, then seemed confused when they nearly killed me. Or why I continued to spectate at races that only made me feel horrible about myself because I wanted to be one of those athletes so badly--- a part of their cool-kid club--- and each one who rode by reminded me how much I wasn't.

I alternately envied; hated; and idolized those skinny weirdo athletes. 'Man, if by some miracle i ever lose weight, I'm gonna let my freak flag fly.' I thought, but it never happened.

Exhibit A: Travis Brown

...Until it did. I'm not quite there yet. maybe ill never reach my perfect weight. but I've somehow been granted a second chance to be myself as i meant to be- and there's no way I'm gonna waste that.

and THAT is why my ear is pierced. twice. Now, about that mid-life crisis---isn't there supposed to be a Porsche involved or something?

Sep 5, 2017

Big news!

Happy to introduce you to Bindu! You can go straight to my profile page HERE. Please at least click on (but I hope you'll read) my first two itineraries.
And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know, either hear or through the contact details elsewhere on this blog.

Aug 21, 2017

Total Eclipse

"You're not the only one staring at the sun, afraid of what you'll find if you take a look inside... you're not the only one who's happy to go blind"-U2

The country is experiencing the eclipse right now, and I'm just not impressed.

Not by the natural event- I'm sure that's quite stirring. But by the ridiculous news coverage.  If you don't have something to say, then simply don't say it! How many words can you use to say "the moon is covering up the sun for a few minutes".

I just don't get these people who've traveled across the country to see it.  You've scheduled your whole vacation around 2 minutes of darkness?

It almost feels like the USA is discovering nature still exists. I wonder if this will convince anyone to take better care of it?

You know what I would love to see? Clouds of pollution block out the sight for a large group of people. Not because I want to ruin their joy, but because it would make a powerful statement they wouldn't soon forget.

But back to the news coverage- this is what happens when a 24 hour news cycle requires news all the time. Not that this is undeserving, but the media has gotten so used to it, that they'll milk this for all it's worth.

Aug 17, 2017

Stratham Hill Finale

A little tip- if you've just finished a bike race in heat, and are sweating your guts out, you probably shouldn't go directly to the free beer. And if you do, sybe steer clear of the one with the higher alcohol content.

For that matter, you might want to finish- or start- your recovery drink first.

For the final race of the stratham hill series,  my goal was top 10. At this point, I have no idea how I placed. I'm writing this in the car on the way home.

My strategy tonight was a return to the first race. This may seem a little stupid, based on my assessment of that race, but my reasoning was that I couldn't go any faster than I did last week, but I could do my best at the start and not just give up all the positions without even making them pass me. In theory I could start at the back and just go "my pace" and pass anyone slower than me. But psychology and the actual trail play their own parts. This is why when you pass someone you usually never see them again. But it's true in reverse too.

Tonight I tried to resist this and catch the geared rider with the fanny pack who rode the hill I walked.  But I never could. To my credit, I did catch sight of him on the final downhill. But he was just too far ahead.

Tonight was, for most of the race, a ride by myself.

Which is what I like best anyway.