not just circle
daily practice

Friday, June 27, 2003  

Good Boy

A young man, whom I used to babysit, graduated from Fireman's Academy last night. When he was a year and a half old, I used to feed him scrambled eggs and yoghurt, and then push him around in circles in the garage in a little plastic car for hours. Now, he's a tall, handsome young man, and has graduated from Fireman's Academy.

How many jobs are there nowadays that offer a man actual opportunities for heroism? Plus, we saw a video of their training, and it was so physical - so grounded and concrete. It really reminded me that virtue is in details and in engagements, a phenomenon that only exists in time and space, like everything else we are to encounter in this world. I tend to think of virtue as something disembodied - an idea - but for my young friend, virtue will be borne out of competence What a blessing it is to find an occupation that allows one to make virtue real using tools and one's own hands.

More to think about.

posted by ~ | 1:54 PM

Wednesday, June 25, 2003  

Something to Consider...

"You cannot practice love. If you do, then it is a self-conscious activity of the 'me' which hopes through loving to gain a result."

J. Krishnamurti - The First and Last Freedom, p.129

posted by ~ | 4:14 PM

Tuesday, June 24, 2003  

The Pleasure of the Text

The text you write must prove to me that it desires me. This proof exists: it is writing.


The pleasure of the text is that moment when my body pursues its own ideas - for my body does not have the same ideas I do.


Pleasure can be expressed in words, bliss cannot... Bliss is unspeakable, interdicted.


Can it be that pleasure makes us objective?

~ Roland Barthes

posted by ~ | 12:29 AM

Sunday, June 22, 2003  

A Few Changes

1. My mom's moving out of my house and to Washington DC. It's great because she drives me nuts, and I need to be the master of my own home, and she needs to stop spiralling downwards and pulling me down with her. It's not so great because my she helps me a lot with my son, and makes it possible for me to leave the house. I am afraid to be imprisioned in parenthood, and as much as I positively adore my beautiful child, I know I need to get out and feel like I can breathe free. I'm afraid those days are over.

2. A new bike racer is staying with me for several months. He's from New Zealand. I like him, and I think I will enjoy him, but I'm a little worried that I will never feel like I can relax in my house... wear a sleevless shirt, or spend a moment not worrying whether or not I look fat.

3. Suddenly, the travel plans are changed with my team, and they may not take me to New York. When I signed on, making certain races on team dime was to be my payment. All that seems to be changing, and I have heretofore been too reluctant to rock the boat to object. It looks like I may have to.

One thing that remains the same:

I am in love. The time I spend with him is like a rest in a weary land, but sometimes, when I am watching him talk - the tiredness around his eyes - the sound of his voice - his leathery skin - sometimes I feel like I am looking in through the window at beautiful and unattainable things. There is a physical sensation - a tightness in the chest, and long hours staring into the dark. Time passing. It makes me feel heavy and sad in a way I'd never trade because the feeling of love - the quickening of it - is something I want, even if I can't possess. But it's hard to love and do nothing.

posted by ~ | 2:17 AM

Sunday, June 15, 2003  

A New Little Plot of Mine:

I've been a journalist for the sport of professional road cycling for a little over a year. I started doing it because I caught a glimpse of something really beautiful in the sport - an opportunity for heroism of a very basic kind, and a chance for men to be men. I have been at it for awhile now, and at first, when I started, I saw metaphors and images of all kinds in it. I saw the poetry of human endeavor, and it thrilled me to write about it - to give it the words it could not give itself.

Lately, I've been a little down, and have lost the thread a little bit - gotten wrapped up in details and skirmishes of different kinds, desires fullfilled and unfullfilled, and mostly. my writing has been losing its fire a little bit - losing the love that made it good in the first place. Now, in an effort to kick start my heart, I want to start a little series here in which I plan to remind myself of what made me decide to do it in the first place. So...

The Poetry of Human Endeavor
Or, Why Cycling is so Great, Pt 1

This charming creature:

Was my first inspiration. Now, obviously he is very handsome, but that isn't why. As a journalist, there's a lot one can't say, and some of that, one might be able to say as a diarist, so I am just going to describe him for all three of you, my readers, here.

From my days as a shy and mousey teenager, firmly ensconced in the social outcast/clever kids tribe, I have been disdainful of athletics, and intimidated by big handsome guys who lead primarily physical lives. As a reader, a writer, and someone who has always been more interested in the life of the mind, its only recently that I have truly found some relation in my own sensibilities to these people who lead lives that differ so hugely from my own, and whose intelligence is of a completely different nature and composition.

GH (above, I'm not putting his whole name here because I would prefer that the bike racing crowd NOT find my website en masse...) won the first big race I went to as a fan. It was a glorious day - all vivid color, speed and staggering beauty in my imagination. He celebrated his victory rubbing his palms together and smiling like a 15 year old boy. Later, his father kissed him on the lips on the podium before he sprayed the photographers with champagne.

Later, when I first started covering bike races as a journalist, my assignments always centered around a very old, traditional European series that begins in April every year, called the Spring Classics. These races are tough, one day affairs, usually lasting just over 6 hours, that are regularly contested in very unfriendly weather, over grueling, old courses in Northern France, Belgium, and Holland.This charming man excels in the Spring Classics, and as I was covering American riders, and he was so often the only American contender, I ended up writing preview after preview of upcoming events in which he was the only subject, and found myself repeating the same list of honors and talents again and again.

Now, this rider's favorite race, often called the Queen of the Classics, is the hardest, most brutal race of all of them - long, trying day in the saddle, usually in a torrential downpour, over kilometers and kilometers of 300 year old cobbled cowpaths little more than a meter wide in places, that rattle the bones and break the strongest wills. It takes a hard man, and more than that, it takes a special kind of, oh, I don't know - maybe it's a resignation, or just a lack of resistance; an ability and willingness to suffer, to even finish. Those that do are inevitably covered in either mud, or a thick, green pollen dust from the surrounding fields, and are often wrecked physically and drained emotionally. This rider has ridden the race 9 times, and has never failed to ride ever meter of it. For the last few years, he has been in the top 6 finishers in the strongest fields the sport has to offer. He rides like a lion - solid, strong, calm, determined, consistent, and utterly unable to give up or give in, sometimes despite terrible odds, and desperate luck.

Faced with the task of writing yet another race preview, I decided it might reduce the repetition if I contacted him and got his comments, and so I wrote to his agents and requested his editorial contribution. A few days later, he e-mailed me, and thus began my correspondence with just such a specimen as I have always viewed with a measure of apprehension and disdain.

His first mail to me, full of tortured syntax and grammer, was nevertheless characterized by a kind of shy ernestness, and though he guardedly looks for the right things to say, there is a sort of unwitting, or maybe just an undisguiseable, openness in his style. A kind of sweetness that I would never have expected to meet in such a creature. A man of few words, he is simple and clear, honest and genuinely good-natured, and at the same time, has a formidable competence and a strength that I can't help but respect. His way of riding his races is his best expression of what he is: consistent, determined, capable. He is beautiful, but not cruelly so, and everytime I have spoken with or corresponded with him, I am struck again by how essentially good he is.

A lot of people say that he won't win races because he lacks the "killer instinct;" that unbreakable will to crush the opposition that is so strong in some. Last year, he told me about losing his biggest race. His mistake was not to have one of his teammates, men who were all there in his service that day, go back to the car and get him a jacket. He got too cold, and expended too much energy shivering and tensing up to keep warm, and he didn't have the power to carry on when he needed it. He still finished the biggest one day race of the year in 6th place that day - on heart, not legs - but he could have done better if he'd been more willing to rule with an iron fist.

Through my involvement in this sport, I have met so many people that are so different from me, and whose talents, virtues and way of being in the world I have never been able to really see or respect - and through them, I am learning that there are many ways of expressing what's deepest and best in human beings, and that some of the most beautiful ways don't have any words, and the feats of grace, strength, courage and determination that are the essential content of the sport of cycling are also essentially silent and ephemeral.

so, I started to write.

posted by ~ | 1:14 PM