Friday, September 22, 2006


Yesterday our UU church had a peace vigil as part of world peace day. I was in a foul mood because of the long day, little sleep, expectation to play, a week of no riding because I’ve been getting over a cold, and not nearly enough to eat for the day. So this account of the vigil is certainly coated with an unforgiving edge, but here goes.

I got there early to set up the sound system. I found folks setting out luminary candles and snacks and getting the list of speakers together. I was going to sing 6 songs and lead the group in four of them. I didn’t want to be there as a ‘performer/entertainer’. It turns out that I wasn’t there and didn’t perform in a monkey’s paw type of quantum physics moment (does that shit work?), but more on that later.

With every car that showed up I sighed just a little. Nobody used human power to get there, and even folks who lived within 2 blocks drove their cars. Then someone put Peter, Paul & Mary on, and while Puff the Magic Dragon wafted over the church grounds I thought what a lazy people we are. We can’t stand the silence, can’t stand the exercise. It was such a cliché of an event and there was no urgency. The participants wanted entertainment – this reading here, this song here, this poem there. As far as I can tell, there was no room for reflection. There was certainly no call for personal action. No call to handwrite letters, no call to use less, conserve, to get out the vote, to write to soldiers, to sacrifice on any level. Just the ‘peace is good, we need peace, pray for peace’. And lots of pretty candles on a beautiful late summer night. Meanwhile the bloodbath goes on and on in a land far removed from us, unseen and sanitized.

Before the first song I got a call from my son. He had broken his ankle in a skateboarding accident, he thought, and my neighbors had taken him to the emergency room. These are neighbors I’ve discovered while riding my bicycle, and knowing your neighbors has its advantages, that’s for sure. Three folks from the church offered to drive me to my house, 3 miles away, but I was on the bicycle, home, into my car and at the emergency room within 20 minutes. You can go fast when you’re appropriately stoked. His ankle was not as bad as it sounded (or looked). He’s definitely okay, attending his school homecoming dance as I write this.

On the bicycle ride to the house, adrenaline pumping, I thought about what an old girlfriend (hey, it happened, okay?) told me a couple of years ago after I had gone off on a rant about something or someone. She said that the world is full of young souls, all trying to find their way, and that I should be gentle with my thoughts of them. That to someone else I was a young soul. I ended up thinking that if even one person showed to protest this insane military action, it was worth it. A sobering thought.

I heard later that only a few dozen showed up at the vigil. I expected more, but the reality is this: In Kentucky, the right side of history is the wrong side of ‘now’.

Today was World Carfree Day. I spent the day driving my son to the doctor and school and work on an extremely tight schedule. Not an inch on the bicycle today. Karma?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What the Bleep Do We Know?

I've been watching a DVD that has been recommended to me for quite some time now. 'What the Bleep do we Know?' I’m still trying to digest it. Don't know if I'll be able to, actually. It’s about quantum physics, or, in the words of one of the presenters, the mathematics of possibility.

Part of my interest is the film’s exploration of emotional addiction. The same chemical receptors that hooked me with nicotine, a painfully difficult drug to shake, also keep me in the same relationship (or lack thereof), the same job, the same state of mind.

I’m left to ponder what emotions do I experience on a regular basis? The feeling of being outcast, of being misunderstood, not included, seperateness, competiveness, fearfulness, subjectiveness, judged, not quite good enough. I wonder if those emotions are the ones that I’m addicted to, addicted to melancholy, addicted to aloneness at the same time desperately trying to find a place where I belong, feeling as if I have to have the correct answer or have to climb that hill faster than the next guy or make better grades. Who in the hell am I trying to please? On the other hand, I have been experiencing contentment more than any other time in my life. Sometimes when I practice taiji I feel a connection with the ‘other’ that is just eerie, while at the same time I am hoping that someone is watching, someone is seeing this extraordinary thing that I do. Narcissistic? Surely! (anyone with a blog has to be somewhat narcissistic, I think – to what degree, though?)

Do I just need someone to show up out of the blue, slap me about the face and tell me to just deal with it? Quit whining?

I’m intrigued at the ideas that float about in my head regarding intimacy. I’m really pissed that I’ll not have an opportunity to know someone as a lover for 50 years, and know that kind of history with another, but on the other hand I don’t even know if I’m meant for a lover or that kind of intimacy in my life.

The DVD also puts forth the idea that I can undergo a paradigm shift. I can correct negative thinking. I can alter reality with thought and thought only. I can build a world far beyond and different than what I currently perceive if I break those emotional addictions. I want to know how.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another Bike Ride

Saturday night, 9/16.

I left the house at 8:00pm to get 'stuff' to fix spots of corrosion on my 2004 Lemond Zurich. Against my better judgement I head to WalMart where I've not set foot in since last year. Well, hey, they *are* open! Imagine that. The security guy asks me to leave my backpack and pump at the door, so I do. I also pick up some stuff to tackle the rust on my vintage Nashbar bike. I figure since I'm there, why not?

Anyway, after leaving Wally's world I head to the bank and make a deposit. Then I decide to ride some more since it's *such* an excellent night out. I head over to an unfamiliar area to do some exporation riding, to see if I can locate some connections to other familiar roads. These new developments are the Cul de Sac overloads, but I finally do find connector streets to another of my favorite city routes. I'm about 24 miles or so into the ride at this point and decide to head on back home on an oft travelled route.

While going through the parking lot at a local factory, I hear my rear tire flatting. No problem, I have all the time in the world and nothing pressing me for time. I'm free! So I head over to the well-lit (electricity sucking) parking lot of a local mega church (think Six Flags Over Jesus - apologies to Garrison Keillor) to change the tire. Ok... I have a PROBLEM! I've left my pump at Walmart. I totally forgot to pick it up. DANG! It's 11:00pm. After a brief reality check I decide I'm still having a good time. BUT, I don't think it would be a good time to bother/wake someone for a ride home. So I walk to the nearby Minit Mart and attempt to call a cab from my cell phone, but Singular infomation gives me an incorrect number for yellow cab (3 times they do this). The MinitMart clerk was no help. He wouldn't look up a number in the local phone book for me), so I walk to the liqour store across from Lost River Cave. They have just closed for business, but I knock on the glass anyway.

Inside the liquour store they are counting out rolls of bills by the open cash register. 'They' being a man, a boy (14 maybe?) a woman, and another man who is sitting in a chair and spinning the chambers of a loaded revolver. They all look up in unison when I knock on the glass door. The man with a gun stops spinning the chamber and locks it into place. They see a middle age man in spandex with a helmet, dorky mirror, reflectors and blinky lights everywhere walking a black bicycle with a rainbow sticker at 11:15 on a Saturday night. I see potential felons. I ask the man without a gun if he would call a cab for me. I figure he's had experience. He calls the number from memory. I thank him, remove the wheels from the Nashbar (for the cab) and do leg stretches in the parking lot while waiting. I figure it can't get any stranger for the folks on the other side of the glass, so why not? The boy observes me from the door, waving when we make eye contact. A half hour later the cab shows up and takes me to Walmart where I find the pump exactly where I left it. I buy a new tire since the old one is ripped, and the actual changeout takes only a few minutes.

I *finally* get home at 1:05a.m. Sunday morning, 5 hours from the time I left. This has been the longest flat thirty mile ride I've ever been on. Good time? You bet!


I've been sick the past couple of days. No bike riding, no work, etc. The 'bug' that's got me happened to choose the two most beautiful days of the year (well, my memory is short). Bleh.

I usually wait to see if the sickness will go away on its own, but tomorrow I'll go to the doc. I can't help but think there are nastier germs at the doc's office than my house.

Meanwhile, I can't tell if my legs are sore because of 'the bug' or because I haven't been on the bicycle in the past two days.


Well, it’s official. I’m no longer music director for the UU church here in Small Town Kentucky. I feel shell shocked, even though this is what I wanted. I think.

On 9/5 I talked to the Sunday Services committee (effectively my Boss) and talked to them about my feelings about being ‘the musician’ for the church. I told them about my ‘questions to the ether’, my wanting to sever the label that’s kept me apart. I suppose they heard ‘I’m quitting’.

The committee arranged another musician to take this past week’s service and they let me know this. When I went to church I had folks come up to me and relating to me in an odd way, different from the usual paradigm. Well, it was different since I was not playing, just attending.

This past Sunday the following insert was in the bulletin:

“Our music director, Woodog (not my real name), has stepped down from his position as music director. If you have musical talent, please let us know what you can do (play, sing, etc) and if you would be willing to serve as part of our musical service.”

I was surprised by this announcement. It is certainly what I wanted, but perhaps not so abruptly. Then again, I’m not sure what scenario I would have been comfortable with. Saying goodbye to an unhealthy relationship has always been difficult for me, especially one with which I have nearly 40 years experience with. During the ‘Joys and Concerns’ segment I felt the need to explain this to the congregation, saying that my spiritual search led me to feel that I didn’t need to be ‘the music guy’ but that I might be ‘a music guy’ from time to time. The concern was the way the announcement was worded. Folks might think something unseemly had happened (like voting Republican, owning stock in petrochemical companies or having an orgy with the youth group) or that there were bad feelings. There is, of course, none of this. I love my church, these people who’ve brought me back from a very dark place – this strange herd of cats, these Unitarian Universalists.

Still, even as I type this I feel unsettled. I’ve started a journey without a clear map or guide.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I have a new respect for those folks who blog daily. It's rewarding, yes, but this shit takes time!

Fill 'er Up!

Saw the caption "Fill Er Up!" on the TV yesterday as our local talking heads excitedly discussed how wonderful it was that gas prices were 'down'. One SUV driver after another were shown happily feeding their addictions, relieved that their dealers were reducing the price of their drug. It's obscene, really, how short our memories are, how incomplete our understanding is (including mine). As long as we can 'afford it', we don't care where it comes from, whose lives are impacted, what the long term impact might be.

No snowflake will ever claim responsibility for an avalanche.

Meanwhile, during work today I had to travel to one of our remote locations to pick up some books, and I took my bicycle on a different route through a poor neighborhood. I saw a fence covered with incredible blue Morning Glory flowers. Around the corner from that visual treat there was a porch with four handpainted rocking chairs. Each had a different, very detailed scene, a sunrise, a parrot in a tree, children playing, and a trumpeter. In a neighborhood where most of the houses mope about in plain sack dresses and hushed voices, these two were laughing out loud, dressed in bright purple and gold.

If I had been in a car I would have missed the joy that washed over me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

God's Favor

I turned over 7,000 miles of riding for the year on my commute to church this morning. I remember the first 1000 mile marker but none of the others until today, and this one only by chance. It would be nice if it occured while climbing one of the scenic ass-busting hills around here, but here's what really happened.

7000 miles came and went as I passed an SUV with the words 'God's Favor' written in prominent white letters across its rear window. I'm not sure what that meant, exactly, but a bit further down the road I saw a squirrel that had had a make over with a tire-track coif and a permanent eye-bugged 'o shit' expression across its fuzzy little pancake flat face. Apparently it had had a run-in with one of 'God's Favors'. A bit later yet another of God's Favors belched noxious gasses on me as it accelerated from a stop light.

A few months back I remember a load of children and a harried woman on a cell phone in a van. The van had a 'Prepare to Meet thy God' front bumper sticker. Nothing came from this encounter other than a smile from me, but I remember thinking how such a combination (cell phone, screaming kids, mini-van) would be a bicyclist's worst nightmare.

I like to recount these stories and others like them to my mom (actually anyone who'll listen). My mom tells me I've got to stop riding my bike in town. I tell her that if I didn't ride the bike I would never see and enjoy and giggle over mind-fuck moments like these.

The bike is a well of joy I visit again and again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


One of my student workers, Ergi, was very excited today about having gotten a credit card. He told a couple of us that 'the lady' approved him even though he was a foreigner. He was happy about his chance to establish a credit history, since everyone had to have a credit history, right?

I told him to run away from the card. Run and don't look back. Then he told me that he had to charge a set amount each month or pay a fee. At least $100 each month to avoid the yearly fee. I asked him what interest rate he had. He didn't know. How much was the yearly fee? He didn't know. Could he just cut it up? He would have to pay a fee if he didn't use it. How much. He didn't know.

Later in the day I was in bathroom and I spotted a bunch of small fliers for a free pizza! It was hard to miss them since they were on the urinals, on the toilet paper dispenser, the towel dispenser, the sink.

One day only (today) and at an address close to campus. You had to have your student ID and complete a 3 minute 'student activity' to get the pizza. Having a flier wasn't necessary. Another of my student workers showed up later with a pizza, telling his coworkers how easy it was to get the pizza. You guessed it. He had gone and completed the '3 minute student activity'. It was an application for a Discover card. Did you read the fine print? No, it was just a 'standard' application. You signed a form without reading the entire contract? It's not a big deal, he said.

Sharks. Why don't they just give out free trial packs of heroin instead? I can imagine the pitch...

'Here, try this. It won't cost much if you want more.'

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sex and the Sitar

Ok... sorry about that play on words.

Two weeks ago a sociology student interviewed me. She was studying the 'social world of church musicians'. The following analogy came up, I'm not sure how, but I think it is an apt one.

I used to play in a band with a fellow who was a phenomenal slide guitarist, a master of tone and phrase, as well as a total asshole. We could find a groove and get totally lost in it. I told the interviewer that music was sometimes like really good sex with someone who you would not associate with otherwise.

Yeah, he was a jerk (still is), but the music was soooooooo good. So I would tolerate behavior from that guy that I would never tolerate from any other friend because I didn't think I would get that 'cookie' anywhere else. Come to think of it, I haven't jammed with someone at that level since I decided his musicianship wouldn't quite cover his karmic bad check.

I've also felt that way about choral singing in the past. These days I'm not even interested in the sex.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back on the Bike

My good friend Tom W and I set out for the hard-ass hills of Southern KY today. It was good to be pushing the body again after 12 days of scant riding. I ride to live, both physically and metaphysically. I feel more connected with the world while on my bicycle than nearly any other time. Must be the endorphins.

Notable sightings included a raccoon that had climbed a tree and was eyeing us warily with it's bandit face, a blue heron taking off from a pond (I thought of T-shirt #18 at minuscar), a hawk waiting on a haybale for a careless mouse, a donkey with a face that made me think Shrek was just around the corner, and finally, a little old lady. She was notable because even though she was only about 5 feet tall, her hair soared at least 2 feet skyward, jet black and thick! Echo's of 70's era televangelism.

You could have driven nails into concrete with that hair. It was marvelous.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

When Nobody's Watching

'Ok if I go out and skate for a while?' the kid asked.

'Sure,' I said.

'It's awesome out, you should go for a bike ride,' he said.

'I think I will,' I said. But I was still in the house when the kid returned, over an hour later.

'Did you ride?' he asked.

'No,' I said.

'You're a wierdo,' he said.

'Perhaps, but why do you think I'm a wierdo?' I asked.

'You're still here. You should go out and ride. It's awesome out,' he said.

He had a point. It -was- awesome out, a perfect change-of-season night, crisp and cool, a hint of crunchy leaves and football games and sweaters in the air. Out I went. It was the first time in nearly 2 weeks that I covered more than 5 miles at a stretch, and it felt good. Plus, as an added bonus, 16 miles later a question that's been chasing me for a while finally got the seeds of an answer.

The question: Do I want to 'do' music at this point in my life?

I do know the importance of having the question correct before you start peeling away the layers to the answer. I've screwed up the questions before, especially the BIG questions - this one is big - but I think I have the question correct. I've wrestled with it for nearly a year now.

Do I want to 'do' music at this point in my life?

Some history will bring the search into sharper relief. I've 'done' music as long as I can remember. My mother was/is a fine musician, playing for churches and musicals and weddings and funerals and schools and just about anything and everything. I sang in my first 'adult' choir when I was 7 or 8 years old. I attended the American Boychoir School (then the Columbus Boychoir School) one summer in 1970 on a scholarship. I played air piano at nine years old and later majored in piano in college. 'Musician' is an identification card I can whip out to show strangers who I am if necessary.

I've been the 'music guy' for the local Unitarian Universalist Church for over 10 years now. I was a hermit when I started playing there, seriously depressed after being dismissed as music director of a United Methodist Church here in Conservativesville, USA. That dismissal occured after I was 'outed' by a member of the Emmaeus community, a Christian community I belonged to and believed in. I still remember the hot shame, the embarassment, the sense of powerlessness. For a long while I would leave my apartment when I had to, longing for human contact yet being caustic to those who did try and reach out to me. The phone finally stopped ringing.

Just prior to that, my son's mom had cut me off from seeing my boy, 2 years old. She alleged molestation, and I had just begun a legal battle to get visitation rights when the 'church crap' went down. I'll spare you the details for now. It's another epic 'I got screwed' tale, but it has a GREAT, SATISFYING, UPLIFTING ending (really). However, I wouldn't know that at the time, and that battle falling on my shoulders at the precise time I was losing my religion didn't help much.

My ability to play, to 'do' music, brought me back to life. My friend (and landlord at the time) asked me to sub for him on piano at the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship. Over the next two years I became the music guy. He wanted to get out of having to play and I found that playing brought me back into a community. It worked, even as distrustful as I was, so gradually I found myself 'doing' music every Sunday again. It was therapy.

The church wanted to pay me and I said no. Then they finally demanded I take a salary and I did for a while, long enough to buy a really kick-ass sound system, before refusing a salary again.

Nowadays I just don't want to 'do' music, and that is a huge paradigm shift. I would rather be a member of the congregation singing the hymn, or (perhaps, maybe) a member of the choir instead of the choir director.

Yesterday during the bike ride another question presented itself. I love my time on the bike because disparate thoughts often organize themselves into interconnected ideas. Here is the new question: What do you do when nobody's watching? What talents do you pursue when other folks aren't around.

I do taiji, I ride my bicycle. I meditate, I read, I write (if you can call this writing). I listen to music. I enjoy music. It still grips me in a magic way, but I only 'do' music in public, never in private.

I'm still rolling this around in my head. I feel really at ease with the process.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Company We Keep

Wow. I see that minuscar provided a link to my blog. I'm honored. If I were you, however, I would pay attention to some of the other links provided there. All you'll find here are a bunch of shitty first drafts from a guy trying to find his voice in the world. That's about it. Really.

I write because I found a powerful statement there. Here 'tis...

The MinusCar Project exists because I believe people that think that the globe is warming because of human activity, specifically carbon emitting human activity, might be right. Because I think they might be right, I think humans need to change. And because I think humans need to change, I think I need to change.

The last part 'got' me. This part:

I think humans need to change. And because I think humans need to change, I think I need to change.

I couldn't get away from that statement. It got inside my head and wouldn't leave me alone, demanding either a different set of beliefs or a change of behavior. I recently wrote an article about that change. In the process, I learned something.

Writing and wrestling with ideas strenghthens me. Putting it down, stripping it to the bones, enlarges my life. Fertilizer for change?

(shitty first drafts as fertilizer - ok, that's just wrong)

I need to change more than my carbon footprint, but in the spirit of keeping track of the carbon footprint for this past week...

A/C - two nights
Car miles 4.6