Thursday, June 26, 2008

not dead yet...

So it's been about 2 weeks since I last posted anything on this pathetic excuse for a blog. I don't really have anything good to say right now, so I'll just fill you in on where I've been for the last 15 days.

My little brother graduated from college a few weekends ago. Tough Cookie and I met my family out there at my aunt and uncle's house for a little celebration. It was great to see my family and brothers. We drank some beers, played wiffle ball, bocce, croquet. We fished for some grass carp. We went around in some canoes on a river, swung off some rope swings. We saw some planes at the Air Force Museum, and saw my great grandmother's picture in the exhibit they had on the Holocaust. She fought in the French Resistance in WWII. I was choked up.

After a short stint back in Maryland - enough time to wash some clothes and repack a bag - I was off to Italy. Val di Sole Italy to be exact, to work at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. The work part of it was slower than I would have liked, but in my free time I got to watch some pros racing, I got to watch some of the Euro2008 football matches. I got to take a lap on the world championship XC course on a borrowed bike, and I went on a short white water raft ride. Also saw some old friends, which always feels good.

Life is just flying by and I feel a little lost in the shuffle. The balance for which I have always striven is off-kilter. Or maybe balance means doing everything half-assed. I'm not sure. I'm not unhappy, but I do feel like a spectator watching my life as opposed to the antagonist driving the plot. This is all perception of course - at the end of the day it's up to me to make my life what I want it to be. Sometimes you just get a little lazy I guess.

We'll get it back on track one of these days. At least I'm riding a little bit now that I'm back in town.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the thermals...

I was listening to a new punk rock album during my morning commute today. It was an album I popped in based on a song I heard and enjoyed on the radio. The first song on the album is an awesome aural kick in the pants, but as I listened more closely to the lyrics, I feared I had been duped into listening into a Christian punk band:

God reached his hand down from the sky
He flooded the land then he set it on fire
He said, "Fear me again. No, I'm your father.
Remember that no one can breathe underwater"

So bend your knees and bow your heads
Save your babies, here's your future
Yeah, here's your future


Thankfully, as the first song transitioned into the second, my fears were mollified by the obviously tongue-in-cheek, semi-bitter lyrics of a disillusioned, estranged Christian like myself:

Locust tornadoes, crosses, and Nazi halos
They follow, they follow

Ashes and friends, ass-backwards medicines

They follow, they follow


You know I might need you to lead

And part the sea so we can cross if they follow us still

I might need you to kill

Every room and every human at will

The album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, is the 2006 release from The Thermals. And while each song continued to rock my TwinSix sock, the lyrics became muddied as my mind became distracted by the thought: can an album be enjoyed despite one's fundamental issues with the lyrics?

What if the album in question had continued in the vein of God-rock while still maintaining a punk-like sound (a la MXPX... though their sound arguably sucks)? Could I continue to listen to the music, enjoying the overall experience by ignoring the meaning behind the words?

Sigur Ros is a group I enjoy, and they sing in a completely made-up language. The overall experience is unbelievably gratifying - like the speakers of my stereo are making sweet, sweet love to my ear canal. I could name many other bands I enjoy whose lyrics are either ridiculous, nonsensical, or meaningless - but for some reason, the idea of being fed Zealotry via music is unsettling... nauseating even.

Thankfully, with The Thermals, I don't have to worry. To me at least, they are true blue punk rock. The instrumentation comes together flawlessly. The lyrics are an oftentimes cynical reflection on the state of the US government, the lack of separation between church and state, and the hypocrisy of organized religion.

Most importantly, they provide to their listener the overwhelming and indescribably need to rock out.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

sock...

I have a special sock. It is the only piece of Twin Six apparel I own - aside from the t-shirt I borrowed from Faticus. This sock appeared in my possession shortly after last summer's 12 Hours of Cranky Monkey. As I was racing with several members of the Frank Zappa Kappa who were sponsored by Twin Six, this was not surprising. And despite the fact that several of those gentleman have complained of losing a T6 sock, this sock will remain in my care.

Twin Six makes some nice socks.

The only obvious question I have not answered, dear reader, is why I'm so keen on keeping my solo sock. "What good is a single sock to a common man like myself?" you might ask. This very question was answered during a group conversation while Brent from Minneapolis was in town.

As it turns out, there are many uses for a solo sock. There's the obvious use of the sock as a pants stuffer. Also popular, but arguably disgusting was the term "spankin' sock". I assure you that I have not commandeered the sock to either of those two ends. We also learned that Zayne Bronze has a special use for the sock - junk protector in the tanning bed. After all, who wants a roasted wiener? However, when you see my pasty white ass, you'll know I fear the UV.

What mystery lies within the stuffed sock?

No, dear reader, I have a found a very pragmatic use for my singular sock. It serves as a great tool holder for the rear jersey pocket while out riding the dirt. The only thing missing right now is a spare tube.

Form follows function.

Monday, June 02, 2008

little shop of horrors...

A pet shop or pet supply store can be a very interesting if not frightening destination. From the customers' dogs - ranging from fierce to friendly - to the pet shop employees - both over-zealous and zany, one can become easily overwhelmed (or in the case of the employees, creeped out) by a visit to the shop. I know this, dear reader, from my experiences as both industry insider and consumer. These two perspectives are not mutually exclusive; and in fact, I am a pet owner - albeit a lousy one - only because of my stint as pet supply store stock boy.

For posterity, we'll start at the beginning.

In high school, I worked for a year or so at PETCO. Without getting too political, as everyone knows you shouldn't buy a dog or cat from a chain-store for fear of supporting "puppy mills", I will say that PETCO is indeed a capitalist organization. The bottom line was usually more important to management than the welfare of the animals (this includes the employees). This fact had an interesting effect on employee motivation.

In many cases, his/her love of animals combined with a meager paycheck, led the typical long-term employee to "morally justified theft." You see, management had an unspoken policy of letting sick animals die - it's cheaper than proper veterinary care and better for the bottom line. The disgruntled and underpaid employees would then steal the sick animals and the supplies to nurse them to health.

Of the interesting characters I worked with - Denise*, the nympho who had notches on her bedpost "well into the double digits"; Andy*, the drug aficionado who once cauterized a box-cutter injury on the job while stoned on horse tranquilizers; Lauren* and Ken*, the couple who shared everything on and off the job. - Ron* was the most interesting. He was the king of veterinary theft. Ron was 27, and had a menagerie of animals in his bedroom at his parent's house. Four rats, 2 turtles, a few parakeets, a cockatoo, 2 dogs, and countless fishtanks left his house smelling like a zoo. He also had an unfounded hatred for hamsters, claiming they were "the worst possible candidate in the animal kingdom for a pet." Despite his care and love for every other animal in the store, I once saw him drop-kick a hamster 40 meters after it bit his finger.

Well, one day Ron showed up at work with a full set-up for a leopard gecko because he had to make room for another rat cage at home. He offered it up for free, and setting aside my worries about the legitimacy of his ownership of the tank, I raised my hand. There was no reptile included, but we carried leopard geckos, and there was a sick one in need of nursing.

The set-up as given to me by Ron*. The mountainous backdrop was my addition.

That is how I became the proud owner of Hermangus (his name a portmanteau of Herman and Gus - two names that were confusedly used interchangeably during his youth). He is an exceptionally boring creature, spending most of his time under a rock. But he shows some excitement when his lazy owner decides to feed him a box of crickets. This, of course, adds excitement to my life because I get to venture into the local Concord Pet Supplies for a box of crickets. Having completed my ethnographic field studies of the pet store employee, I have a vested interest in the continued observation of said creature.

Hermangus makes a rare appearance for a drink.

My last purchasing experience began with a chime of the electronic bell as I crossed the threshold. Without pause, I was greeted by the girl at the counter, struggling to contain her excitement around helping a customer. My request for a box of crickets revealed her uncanny love for lizards as she gave the cash register an almost sensual caress. "What are you feeding?" she asked in a sultry voice. My response of "a leopard gecko" seemed to send almost orgasmic electric shivers through her very being. I paid quietly and quickly and left the store a shaken mixture of arousal, intrigue, and shame.

Dinner awaits, meanwhile the chirping of the crickets adds a flavor of meadow to any living room.

But alas, dear reader, that is a small glimpse into the shady world of pet supplies. I could spend an entire week with various anecdotes, observations, and advice. Though my tenure at PETCO ended over 8 years ago, I still have Hermangus, who has survived over 10 moves, and countless famines. He remains my reminder of the love of mankind for small slithery things.

*names changed, of course, to protect the identitys of these slackers and animal lovers.