Looking Up – YODO

  • A year ago I was riding my bike in northern Michigan. It was cool. Literally. Riding around DC in the summer is an exercise in adaptation. After 101 miles the other day, I feel adapted. Near death, but adapted. When I moved here in the mid 1980s I tried to maintain my New England running life. It was impossible in the summer. I’d lose a pound per mile in sweat and there were no water fountains around to get a drink from.
  • I often take pictures of the sky. So when life gets me down, all I need to do is look up. And well….

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I took this picture while sitting at Nationals Park.  It was so sunny that I couldn’t see the result on my phone. Then I got home and looked at it. Yeah, it was really this nice out.

  • A friend of mine recently posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on her Facebook page:

If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” 

Ray Bradbury, you are a putz. If we listened to our intellect, we’d never find ourselves in toxic relationships.  Only an idiot jumps into business without thinking things through. Taking risks is foolhardy unless you minimize them first. It’s obvious that Ray Bradury never went on a bike tour. If you don’t use your head, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a failing tire. In the rain. With a head cold. Miserable. Been there. Done that. Thinking doesn’t make you a cynic; it just makes you prepared. (Bring a spare tire, dummy!) Go ahead and jump off that cliff, but you might want to be wearing a parachute, because the rocks will mess your ass up. Or you can follow Old Ray’s advice and, as they say in Minnesota, thin the herd.

Our disagreement on the Ray Bradbury quote probably explains why I haven’t seen or heard from this particular friend in nearly two years.  She’s a YOLO person. I’m a YODO person.

  • I signed up to dispense beer at the Tour de Fat in DC. It’s an event that celebrates bikes, beer, music, and such. And it raises money for local bike advocacy groups. Now if you think about it, you might not come. So forget what I said about Ray Bradbury and come on out. Even if you don’t drink beer and I haven’t seen or heard from you in two years.
  • I’ve lived in DC for over 30 years. For much of that time I could go out and not run into a single person I knew. It was very strange. It’s not that way anymore.  There were four people that I know who visited Great Falls Park on the C&O canal this weekend. I only saw one of them as I rode past on Saturday but the coincidence is kind of neat.
  • Also during that 30 years, I have never seen the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens when the water lillies are in bloom. That happens this month. I would love to go this weekend but I will be out of town. If you are in DC, you should go. And, best of all, you can bike there on the new Anacostia River Trail.
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Weekend Round Up

Dang am I tired!

I rode to the baseball game yesterday. The weather was great. It was a 4 pm start. I figured I’d get home long before dark.

Then the Nationals put 18 runs on the board against the woeful Reds. You know you’re in trouble when your pitcher’s first name is “Homer”. I am not making this up.

I nearly got whiplash from watching batted balls fly all over the place. Home plate had a dent in it by the 8th inning.

I rode home at twilight. I used blinky LED lights and made it about 2/3rds of the way home before it became legitimately dark. Rather than stop and mount my real light, I carried on. The entire ride would have been wonderful but for the exploding midge population along the river.  Ick.

Today I got up and did some light yard work. Mostly I cut branches so that I could ride straight to the shed in my backyard without getting my face all torn up.

After writing an unintentionally woo woo blog post, I hopped on my bike and headed back to the ballpark for another game. This time the Reds scored a bunch of runs early and the game dragged on under a hot sun for over 3 hours. I was fried despite the sunscreen I applied. Rather than buy beer, I bought water.

The game really was a dud to watch. So I kept looking up and the clouds drifting over the park. The sky was just perfect.

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I left quickly and rode home on impulse power. All weekend the trail was cluttered with people in groups riding slowly on rental bikes and Bikeshare tanks. Little kids popped up as if obstacles in a video game.

I did not drop one single f-bomb. (Takes a bow.)

I even stopped to help a woman on a Bikeshare bike who crashed. I saw her go down and knew it wasn’t serious, but these things tend to feel much worse than they are. It took her about five or ten minutes to let the pain dissipate and to get her composure. We sent her on her way. “Finish your ride, then drink some wine.” She and her partner liked the idea. Then I said “No tylenol.” When I told her that tylenol and alcohol are toxic to the liver she was shocked. She explained she regularly took tylenol before drinking to avoid a hangover.  My work here is done.

When I got home I was pretty tired from riding and sitting in the sun. So I mowed my lawn. What a maroon. I am now officially rode hard and put away wet.

Tomorrow I am dropping my daughter’s car off for service and cutting 24 miles off my bike commute. It’s a bit like resting your old players in a day game after a night game.

Finally a note about yesterday’s blog post. A friend of mine, who I will call Brian because that is his real name (or so he tells me), declared me to be his guru. He is currently sitting on my back porch meditating which is appropriate given the twisted provenance of the title of his advice column in the local weekly newspaper. Anyway, he will henceforth be referred to herein as Sexy Sadie.

The thing is my woo woo post was actually motivated by the neurology of attention. A few years ago there was a video about attention that went viral. It demonstrates that our brains have limited processing capability, especially when assigned a complex task. Watch a teenager learning to drive. They are overwhelmed mentally. They have to sort out what’s important and what’s not. Over time, they learn to tune out the “not”.  We all do. The problem comes when the “not” unexpectedly becomes important. This happens a lot when you’re driving.

Another takeaway from this is the fact that we are on autopilot so much of the time. Walk into the kitchen. Grab a cookie. If you want to lose weight, all you have to do is become aware of your brain seeking a little pleasure reward and ask “Is this a need or a want?” If you want to increase your savings you do the same before you buy anything.  This may explain why I am an incompetent consumer.

What flips me out is the fact that your brain can hyper focus during an emergency. Mrs. Rootchopper and I both experienced this when we each were hit by a car. It turns out that for brief bursts our brains can pay attention to and absorb an astounding amount of information with incredible clarity. It’s really unsettling, in a way. You have more thoughts than you normally have time to think them.  So you normally unthink them. Your brain knows to ignore the useless stuff. If you stop for a few minutes and refocus on them, you’ll find out what you are missing. As it turns out, you’re missing a lot.

Who knew?

 

 

Awareness, or Going from Soon to Nope

This morning I went out on my deck and made an obvious discovery. The suburbs are supposed to be quiet but they are not. It’s noisy out there. Somehow, in the grind of daily life, we tune it all out.

I was just sitting there feeling groggy from too many miles, too many midges consumed on the ride home from yesterday’s baseball game. I closed my eyes. And listened.

Crows. Cardinals. Assorted other birds. The general hum of the traffic on US 1 about a mile away. (Sounds a bit like a kitchen exhaust fan set on low.) The leaves rustling in the wind. The occasional jet plane over head.

Listen more closely.

A voice in the distance singing what sounds like a very spacy tune. The clacking sound of squirrels. The rumble of a truck on the nearby side street. The more I listen, the closer I pay attention, the more birds I hear. There are layers of them that I tune out. The coo of a dove. A horsefly buzzing by.

I found out later that meditators call this choiceless awareness. Of course, you can play the game with just one sense or all your senses, but that seems rather overwhelming. Hell, I can close my eyes and see all kinds of interesting things on the inner side of my eye lids. Floaters. Blood vessels. A glow from the light through the skin. A dead spot where my retina was reattached. The retina itself. More floaters. (Floaters are like bird songs. The more you pay attention to them the more you detect.)

This passive noticing is good fun. You can easily piss all over the fun part if you sit there with your eyes open and notice that the world is a rather grungy place. The deck needs washing. The lawn is too tall. There are spots of mildew on the siding. This chair has gross dirt all over it. I’ll keep my eyes closed, thank you.

A few months ago I noticed what I think is the opposite of choiceless awareness. It has to do with flipping your visual processing on its head. We see that we are passing through various environments. The shrubs on the side of the trail. Grass. The river, The tree limbs hanging down. There’s too much of it and we tune most of it out. This explains what going somewhere new can be overwhelming. We don’t know what is important for our task at hand and what is useless visual clutter. Which of those road signs matter? What landmarks are important? And so on.

So one night I stumbled into focusing my attention on a limb overhanging the trail as I rode toward it. Instead of me riding toward it past it, my mind flipped this on its head. Instead of me passing through the landscape, the landscape was passing by me. The limb took on an eerie fake 3-D quality with everything around it out of focus.

From time to time, I play with this inverted awareness on my bike commutes. Just another way to go into a bike trance.

This awareness game does not work at all with faces or names. At least not for me. I can’t detect Chris M. at all, but I have regular sightings of dopplegangers for Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon and Flogini. They are both distinctive looking but my brain just gets them visually mixed up with other people. I can’t even…

The other day I saw a woman on the trail riding toward me. I was on my recumbent. She smiled (this happens a lot when you’re on a bent) as she rode past and I nodded. There were familiar laugh lines on her face. And shoulder length dark brown hair fell from beneath her helmet. She was fit and riding an upright bike. Flogini? I haven’t seen her in over a year. Was it her? I texted her. He one syllable answer: “Nope.” Loquacious, no? We’ve gone from “soon” to “nope”. Maybe that’s the problem.

Oh well, things are always looking up.

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