Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

As you problably inferred, I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this.

You probably see why I haven’t done very well at academia in – well, my whole life, actually. Updating this thing in some aspects became like another homework assignment, and took on the same pattern: once you’ve missed it, then it builds upon itself, and I want to make up for all the ground I’ve lost, and then some. I’ve got 32,768 things to write about, and only one space.

When I reflect on a lot of things, I find songs coming to my head. This one is an old White Zombie song, if you can believe that, that I listened to in high school. One little trademark of the band was to have a random little introduction to each song, just a voice, a quotable that didn’t have much to do with anything. In “Supercharger Heaven,” a deep, accented man’s voice says, “Perhaps we’d better start from the beginning.”


I started this weblog over two years ago, which seems like both just yesterday and forever ago. As I get older, I thought time would seem shorter. Instead, it just loses track of itself. I can think back to a certain point in the past, and when I focus on it, it seems like it's just happened. Then I think, "holy crap, that was a decade ago," and I feel old.

But when I started this, I was definitely in a "different place in my life," whatever that is worth. I certainly hadn't started cycling, which is probably the single biggest difference, biggest directed change, anyway, that I've made in my life. It's not "just" a hobby, which is all the more reason I feel up in the air with life, along with the same feeling about the bike.

So what gives?

I'm going to tell you, in a roundabout way, on one condition: that I never, ever hear the word "Emo" again. It's fucking done, all right?

"Tossing and Tortured 'till Dawn" started at about four in the morning. The title is from another song. The band’s called From Autumn to Ashes that struck me at that point -- I'd just picked up the album "The Fiction We Live," and it's mostly full of intense, overdrive-and-growling rock. There's probably a specific name for the genre, but I'm no good with identifying that stuff. Good music, but not something you'd go to sleep to, that's for sure. Then along comes track seven, called "Autumn's Monologue." It's a simple, soft ballad, with a female vocalist and a few basic guitar chords. Where'd that come from? A few tracks later comes the album's eponymous track, a short, male vocalist echo of "Monologue," with slightly different lyrics but “mirrored” lyrics.

Both tracks, and their presence in this otherwise hard as nails album struck me as representative of the duality of life that's forever chasing my mind in circles. And so, when I woke up suddenly at four in the morning, they were the first words on my mind.

When pressed, most doctors seem to agree that "regular aerobic exercise" is good for just about everything that ails you, even those supposedly "mental" illnesses. The concept of psychological "versus" physical problems always confounded me. Isn't the biochemistry of the brain a part of physiology? Don't hormones influence everything we do? But in any case, it's supposed to be as or more effective than commonly prescribed medications for symptoms of depression, for ADHD, and a bucket of other things.

At that point, I didn't do any physical exercise, and my head, oh dear, was a mess. It was once suggested to me (by an anonymous contributor to an online forum, of course) that I failed out of college by riding my bike too much. If only he knew.

Cycling is the purest thing in my life. When I’m riding, there I am. It’s Zen, Taoist, or what have you. Now, as long-time friends may recall, I said once that “I am the anti-zen.”. That’s still true. I googled that phrase, and my own weblog still popped up, below a few other utterances of the quirky, on-the-spot phrase in question by someone called Suburban Lesbian.

I don’t think I’ve read that post in two years. Look out, though, kids: it is the penultimate three-letter word, and I don’t want to hear it.

It’s still me, with one big change: at that point, I’d just bought my road bike, and I certainly couldn’t say I was “actively training” at that point. At that point, I said that, when I woke up, “there is nothing to soften the edges of the razor I walk on.”

If you can get yourself past the cheesiness of that for a moment, I can tell you the difference between then and now. The bike is an escape from madness for a few hours. It brings me a sense of peace that nothing else does, but maybe not in the same way that it does for you, dear reader, if indeed a cyclist you are.

A lot of people say that cycling is, in of itself, a peaceful activity. They enjoy looking at the countryside, the views, the solitude, the calm. Fuck that. That, ladies and gents, is why I’m a climber. Not because my skinny legs can drag me over the mountains faster than they could if they were less skinny, but because mountains hurt.

At that moment, on that climb, there is nothing else. I’m not searching for the passion any more: at that moment, I’ve found it. Cycling gives me peace because it ends the search for that day’s high. When I come back from a hard ride, take a shower and lie down, I don’t move. This is the only time that I actually just rest.

Until the next day, at least.


  • At 4:35 PM , Blogger Brooke Hoyer said...

    At a ripe 41, I've mellowed quite a bit over the years. I've had to -- for the sake of my wife and children. I had the angst, ennui, whatever, of youth and the drive for personal destruction. What got me focused and level was rock climbing. The danger wasn't the allure -- it was the perfect combination of tremendous physical exertion, problem solving (reading the rock, placing protection, etc.), and adrenalin. When I was on the sharp end, every part of ordinary melted away and it was one hundred percent immediate. Get the job done, mitigate consequences, execute the plan and get me and my partner up the rock safe.

    I haven't climbed in five years. It took me about a year after my daughter was born to realize that being a dad meant I wasn't going to be able to maintain my form -- it just takes a lot of time plus all vacations and lots of weekends at the crag. That just wasn't going to cut it with kids so that's just history.

    I've cycled all my life and been pretty hard core about mountain biking in the past so I started cycling more miles just to stay in shape. I didn't want to get fat sitting on the couch ... But that itch wasn't getting scratched. I need to take myself to the edge of my abilities to remember that I'm really still living.

    That's when I started racing cyclocross.

    Anyway, I have some inkling of where you're coming from.


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