Thursday, June 28, 2012


we undulated, and the wind whipped out and curled back in around us like a tongue ready to soothe us toward inevitable devouring, pushing and pulling use toward fangs and black gums and a throat that led to absolution. it was neither tailwind nor headwind or belgian crosswind laced with sleet and that farm smell that is at once haltingly fresh, and historically stale: it was wind, and it was going to win.


i heard his footsteps so delicately placing the pavement behind him, as if selected carefully before executed, as i plodded foolishly to my demise, and the hill began to rise. he had a close-cropped beard, round glasses, a bandana round his forehead, and sweat pouring down his bare torso into the dark-stained waistband of his blue running shorts. i knew this without looking behind me. i knew also, from listening, that he was suffering as i was, though it wasn't his feet, rather, it was his breathing. we were going to do it, then, we were pitted. it was lap four of seven, no reason to race, or to cede an inch, so we drove forward, each to his doom.


i knew that i would win. this is a bold statement from someone who never wins anything, but this wasn't really winning anything, so i knew i would do it.

i led to the beginning of the false flat. he waited. i led to the beginning of the last kick of the hill. he came round. i let him get a few strides on me, maybe three at most, and then i decided that i would kill myself reeling him back in. step for step, i suffered, sweat and snot streaming down my face, shoes pounding audibly into the hill in that funny kick-step way, just on the balls of the feet, never there long enough for more than a temporary purchase of traction. i came round. we ran even for three, maybe four more strides. then i pushed. he faded. i pushed again to come clear, he huffed his resignation, and i went.

there's something exhilarating about departure. as soon as those perfect striding footsteps faded into the background, my beleaguered cadence lit up. i attacked. it was only a few more lengths to the top of the hill, to the metal post with fading yellow paint, to the cloud of smoke rising from the tourist on the bench, but it seemed to take forever. i had become time. at the speed of light, time ceases to exist. legs churning, muscles dissolving, the finish line impeccably preserved, i approached, but never gained. it was yearning, perpetual.


we sweated back down the slope in our 'easy' gaits, each plotting the next one's death, a perfect murder amid pines and race flats. he sweated and jogged, coughing now and again with the remnants of a near-death exertion. some spit or sweat landed on my face. i lapped at it, unconsciously, eating the heart of mine enemy, ingesting the meat of an animal that is fast, taking in the flavor of victory. i had broken him. and i was still running.

Monday, June 25, 2012

mortal coil.

he was the only one trackstanding, in a blue jersey on a blue bike that looked like it wouldn't be able to handle the size of his calves and he was making all that hulking power look graceful and stationary.

i would end up memorizing the number of rectangles on his back (7) over the next hundred kilometers, straining to keep up, even in his slipstream, and imagining the cries from the carbon stays when he stood up, and really went hard. he was a mountain biker, a cross racer, a roadie with unprecedented handling skills and fluid movement. he educated me about the roadie snobbery - it's safety/trust-based because the risks are exponentially higher on pavement, in groups. he looked like the bike was an extension of himself; he was poised, like a guitar in the monstrous hands of a man who looked more like a boxer, or a bricklayer. the bike was strung and tuned, humming, suspended from his physicality, a delicate instrument cradled by immense power, skill ready to unfold.

i turned down the invitation to the sunday group ride i suffered through last weekend to embark on this saturday group ride that i had at least suffered through a few times before. composition of the group usually dictates the nature of the ride, and i've only just begun to figure out whose attendance will spell my disastrous undoing, and to whom i must dedicate myself to hanging on. i had never met the man in the blue jersey before. he was easygoing, ready to grin, too strong for his flimsy-looking bike, and he could trackstand. must be a mountain biker. we spun out easy onto lakeshore heading west, and were told at a light to ease off the pace as it was too much for a warm-up. i'll blame it on him, of course.

as we headed into mississauga, the pace was great, the draft was fine, and i did some pulls. it was going to be a great ride. i even kinda knew where we were going. we set up for a hard paceline on mississauga road. we dropped and got dropped and caught back on and it was not the devastating 'i'm f&*$ed' situation of last weekend. i could hang. i wasn't the worst off in the group. i had an extra bottle in my jersey.

somehow, there cannot be a weekend group ride where i avoid getting dropped.

my favorite spot, it would seem, is somewhere where the wind picks up, the stretches are long and lonely, and the air is clear enough to see just how far ahead 'unreachable' really is. this is the airport loop. sandwiched between highway and runway, the noise is not distracting enough, with the wind, to truly detract from the suffering at hand. and somehow, i got pegged with the 'fastest' group. damn it. so there i was, staring at those rectangles, mesmerized by those calves, trying desperately to hang on, to pull through, to take my turn. i did. then i got dropped. then i clawed my way back, up a hill and into the wind, then we dropped the third guy. then i sat up for him. then i clawed back to the blue jersey. then i let him go. i was shuffled off like a mortal coil, he churned away into the wind, and i finished the chase in absolute no mans land. it was glorious.

although getting dropped seems to have become a certain theme in my group ride attendance, i would admit that it is fantastic. i've learned how to chase, and in chasing, have become a much faster rider than i would be on a solo ride. and there's always a benchmark, a goal: to get dropped later in the next ride, and, eventually, not at all.

and the best part about following that blue jersey everywhere: he was gracious. all he ever said was 'nice!' when i pulled through, or, 'you caught back on! wicked job!', or 'great ride, man'. he didn't rip me apart for dragging down his pursuit team. he didn't offer pointers or tell me to get the hell off his wheel (that i'd been sucking since we started) and man up to a pull. he even let me attack up a hill and then came around after we crested, enough to make it a contest, but not enough to lord his power over my measly attempts. i never ride with people. and i can't wait to go again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


i want you to have a great time tomorrow. i want you to ride hard. seriously...

she told me these things as i prepped all my things and i tried to remember everything and the last thing i wanted to think about was how hard i had to ride. but that's the way it is with a partnership, a family, a dream: you own up to it, and you don't screw around.

so i got everything ready. aired the tires, filled the bottles, set out the kit, organized the food. then i went to bed, to chew the inside of my cheek and unconsciously panic about everything that's going on these days. it's a hard june.

i got up at 5 and putzed around, waiting for my body to wake up and the espresso to creme. i ate a little and drank a lot and went to the bathroom a bunch. i put on my kit. i put on chamois cream. i put on some embro so that my calves wouldn't lock up too readily after my 12k run yesterday. i drank some more. i drank the espresso and ate a clif bar and had another drink and left.

everything was in my head and most of it was positive as i set out to the meeting place, some 26 minutes away. i rode the shit that is bloor street, abetted by the pre-dawn glow that lent everything a softer, more ponderous pose. i avoided some potholes and hit others. i spun easy, hoping to lap up every second of this warm-up pace, before i'd be hoping to hang on for dear life, or at least a satisfactory end to it.

we met at the coffee shop and it wasn't open. we left when everyone got there and names were exchanged. mikel, of velominati fame, was the one who'd invited me on this adventure, and i was hoping to not let him down. i knew he was a stronger rider and that it would really hurt if there were just the two of us, but then a whole group showed up and they seemed alright and friendly enough and only two guys were on carbon wheels. it might have been a fine morning.

we spun easy out of the city, gliding quickly through what will soon be the tail end of my new commute, chatting in a double paceline, interrupting ourselves every now and again to call out 'clear' or 'right'. it was that flow that makes bicycling cycling. as we got out into the suburbs and then the county roads, the pace picked up. i recognized some of where we were, but i kept most of my attention on holding my line, not dropping the pace, and generally trying to find a draft. problem was, i was in a group of extremely different riders, and they were riding, and racing. my draft was not mine; i would have to fight for it. and it was a crosswind, so someone would be the ticket puncher. the wind drifted across my nose at a gainly clip and i wished for a smaller cross section, a bigger rider in front of me, and a little more room to the right. but i was getting edged out by that severe racer-looking guy with the audacious swiss kit. so all i could do was hang on, and get battered.

we made it around the airport, that same road of prior infamy where i ended up getting dropped and then towed by a man more than twice my age. then we headed out further and further, and the further we headed out, the more i dreaded having to take a turn on the front. i took my turn. i took turn and then turn and then one more turn, and eventually, after one hill and a couple of traffic lights, i would take the turn of my life.

we were flying. it was upwards of 50km/hr. but i didn't have the wherewithal to look down and see that at the moment; i was trying to breathe. i was trying not to overlap wheels in the tightest paceline i'd ever ridden. i was trying to make it tighter. i was trying to stay relaxed and hammer down on the pedals and keep my eyes on the road and stop hearing the lady's words in my head 'i want you to go out there and ride hard'.

it was those words, those expectant, vulgar words, that ran seething laps through my skull as i pulled through and pulled through and then popped.

we were somewhere on an overpass that had a sign that said to take the 403 east to toronto. we were far from home. i would have a long ride back by myself. the lady would not be pleased.

the group pulled a few more through and then sat up. i worked to catch back on and ride right through to the front to tell the leaders that they should just go and i'd see them later. they insisted that i sit in. they refused to drop me that far out. i said it was fine. we pedaled on. i sat in for a good long time, and even tried to pull through a bit to show them that i was cooked, but still willing to work for them as much as i could. it was no use. as soon as we hit even the smallest hill, my legs gave out and they pedaled away. i used to use hills to pedal away like that. today was different.

one good thing about getting shelled, for the second time: i had to chase my ass off.

another good thing: i found out that i could chase. i spent most of my time on mississauga road hammering myself in the drops at 37km/hr., with the singular focus of getting the group back into view. i rode past enormous houses with driveways nicer than the street. i rode past girls learning to ride so that one day, training wheels off, they could suffer like the blithering idiot blurring past them. i rode past basketball hoops never used but weathered nevertheless. i rode myself into the pavement.

i caught up at the light at lakeshore. we spun easy back into the city. we meandered. i recovered, a little.

i got home and was met with a glorious father's day breakfast. i was met with little girls with big brown eyes and bigger sunhats and beautiful, personal, rickety, humorous gifts that couldn't possibly be purchased anywhere, with anything like currency. i was home.

i had to tell the lady. i had to admit that i'd been shelled, that i bit off more than i could chew, that she would have been the better one to go out there and hammer and represent the family. after all, she's the fast one. i told mikel it was like sending out the soigneur to race with the stars. he laughed. only i knew how true it was. bill strickland has a t-shirt: "every domestique has his day". i wasn't even a domestique today. i wasn't pack fodder. i was weight. dead, stinking, sinking weight, off the back, on my steel bike and wool jersey and glasses i only put on as the sky got darker. i had a garmin to tell me just where i popped, how much i was suffering when it happened, how far we had gone. i just don't know how far i have yet to go. there is, again, much work to be done.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


there was nothing wrong with the thrust, except that it was inaccurate. if such had been used to force a sparring position, or an instrument into a surgeon’s waiting hand, a life may be taken or saved, but here, both. giorgio withdrew then, to gaze upon his glistening error: soul killed, pregnant with soul conceived. the irony would not reach him, until it was within striking distance.

katya had longed for just such a man: irreverent, lusty, and hard as the nails that crucify criminals and their heroes. here she was, then, balking at her success. breathing shallowly, her breasts trembled, rippling and white, surrounded by the secretions of afternoons and the itch of honest woven wool. she was a garment.

in order for the sun to reach the striped blanket, it fought heartily through the crusted window glass, its final passage a shadowy memory of its earlier fervor, a surrendered, broken kind of light. it was no longer a ray. nevertheless, it made a drunken path over the bedclothes, cavorting over tangled wet hair, goosebumps and blemishes, and a bold blue bolt underneath her shoulder blades.

the bolt extended to her hands. her hands extended to her fingers. her fingers barely curled in relaxation, succumbing, ultimately, to the truth of the moment: it was over.

the baby would be called jake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

thank you to phil lee.

once upon a time, i was waiting in line at a hotdog stand, biding my time before trudging off to another dreaded biology lab.

i had bribed myself, with a hotdog i could not afford, into attendance at my bi-weekly punishment for being a science student: 3 hours of torturous biological bliss. it was horrible. i don't remember the details of these terrible times, but i remember avoiding them like the plague, and having my grades in the class decline terminally.

back in line: it was a beautiful october evening, with the sun setting and everything crisp but not yet cold, basking in golden nostalgia for the summer, about to don a toque for the fall. i was savoring another glorious drawing class in the studios of the heart of the campus. i had spent the last three hours putting charcoal to newsprint and manila paper, scraping conte contours and smearing true, absolute black into shadows only i knew the depths of. it was second year drawing, my only elective in the fall of my first year, and i was in love.

how i would fantasize in those days! i would picture myself walking along the paths of the quad, bearing the weight of my artistry in a massive black portfolio slung over one shoulder. i would dream of the victorian, jacobian, elizabethan volumes scattered across my desk. i would envision myself, twitching, pressing buttons to different floors in the library, seeing the stacks instead of the scientific journals, signing out shakespeare instead of organic chemistry for absolute idiots.

i was in the middle of just such a daydream when i recognized a classmate heading away from the cart with his own hotdog. he was actually in second year. he was dashing, charismatic, friendly, and, most importantly, a really good artist.



we made small talk, gabbed a bit about the class and our crazy but gifted prof, and what we were working on for our series due next week. i eventually got my hotdog. i looked at my watch. he asked me what my plans were for that night. being an absolute novice, i didn't recognize the invitation in the inquiry, and couldn't have wished to respond appropriately if i had, and i told him the truth: biology lab.



what are you studying?

human biology, a major. i'm going to be a doctor.

what? i thought you were in art!

no. i wish. i would love to be in art. i really hate science here.

man. you should switch.

what? no way. i can't.

yeah. well. you should. your stuff's really good.

and i don't remember much of the conversation past that because my head started to swirl and everything faded away and all i knew was this: someone, who didn't know me at all, who owed me absolutely nothing in confidence or compliment or commitment, who was hardly even a friend, and who made wicked works on paper, told me that my stuff was really good.

for someone who grew up to become someone like me, that moment was crystal. and, about a year later, it would all come to a head and i would make the big switch and paint a painting of it and rid myself of the suffering sciences forever. i was an artist. and that fact shone so truly that a stranger could see it and believe it! here was no daydream. here was no sick fantasy about having a pile of homework written in verse and iambic pentameter. here was no coaxed and forgotten cheap thrill compliment from a girl i'd rather kiss than critique my art with. here was the real potent deal.

i grew up always looking for praise. my parents tried very hard to make me non-dependent upon praise or other stimuli in the model of externalized self-esteem. this was, despite all their efforts, to no avail. maybe they wanted me to depend so little on direct praise that they almost never gave it to me, or i learned to ignore it if it did happen. maybe i internalized every struggle, triumph, and pride so that my rewards were mine, and i wouldn't mess up the tenuous balance between my sister's moods and my brother's learning disability and my mother's shift work and my father's philosophies. either way, whatever happened, i learned to keep to myself, and give absolute licence to the things i could not help but love doing. i didn't need praise if i just needed to do the thing, no matter how "well". i didn't need approval if i couldn't help myself but do it.

the hotdog started to drip grease and relish onto the web of skin between my index finger and thumb. the grease joined some of the conte and charcoal dust trapped there, and i thought a minute about primitive pigments and visions and the big Truth. it was all there. i went to the lab. i barely passed the course. i didn't become a doctor. and i'm still an artist, approved or otherwise.

Friday, June 8, 2012


silas clears his throat and breathes through his 's's and 't's and never shaves all the way and frowns to consider things but smiles readily, and often, at me and my foolery. he is smarter than i am, and this has not served him as well as he had hoped. she may not love him.

when her breasts were pushed up against him, her hands went hot and she imagined blazing searing addresses over his skin, cauterizing half-truths and full insomnia into each freckle and benign mole. he was solid, she was supple, and they would both do, for now.

kathleen turned to him with her unprecedented brown eyes and asked whether these were good feet. he, puzzled, fumbled over a mumbled response and made up for it with a quick look to water, all pollen green over too-warm blue, considering hue and saturation variations that would have been more suitable. she fell for it. so did he.

after she read the first four and a half lines of the letter, the doorbell welcomed distraction and her footsteps adopted the destination of every woman he'd ever written before: away. it was only in the fifth line, second verb, that she may have been coaxed back, that the bathrobe may have stayed white, that there would not have been that mark on the tiles under her hip.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

a scratch in the paint.

after getting my bike across the border, getting it built in a day, and riding it tentatively for a few miles, i began the process of owning it. i would say it is the process of owning because it is not a simplified, finite act. first it had to be conceptualized and then realized, step by excruciating step, and then it had to be held and ridden and experienced. this is a process.

my bike is painted in liquid pearl-finish black. when i spent my nights in darkrooms printing pictures of fleeting beauty, i printed on pearl-finish paper. i printed for tones from black black to white white, leaning more towards grit, grain, and contrast than an easy grey curve. my bike is gritty, and black, but pretty, and hard. except for the paint. the paint is not hard, or at least, not hard enough.

i had read about chipping liquid paint. i had heard that liquid isn't as durable as powder coat, but that it has a deeper tone, a more satisfying lustre. i didn't really care about either at the time; it was the only, and fastest, paint option available to me. i took it. the bike arrived. i built it.

i chipped the paint.

marking one's things with the evidence and damage of use is perhaps the final step in ownership. scratching the clear coat on my carbon fiber crank; grinding the teeth of the big ring on an unsuccessful attempt over the gate at the spit; tearing the bar tape in an overcooked corner; these are the marks that make the thing mine. i have at once ruined, and released the chains of perfection from the thing. it is tarnished, flawed, real, and, now, perfect.

after sending a tweet to @truebs notifying him of my appreciation for his writing, i got a little too excited and tweeted the link to this blog. i was absolutely elated to see a subsequent tweet of an excerpt from the blog, my blog, and the response that i have some decent writing going on here. in all honesty, i was like a kid with a shiny new bike: i had the thing, it was sitting there are perfect and liquid, and i didn't dare touch it for fear of making it real.

this is the scratch in the paint.

in all honesty, it would be a dream come true to have a writer i respect give my words a similar respect. it would be beyond my hopes to make a break in the world of writing, to get somewhere because of the way i string together vowels and consonants and imagery without device. but in getting so wrapped up, i forgot that i need to do that thing, i need to write, i need to keep looking for something gritty and grainy, and i need to print it for black blacks and white whites. the writing must go on. i may not sit idly by and be satisfied with a shoutout, a tweet.

now, we ride.