"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Thursday Hate: SoTU edition

Sam Alito. Did you notice how every other one of your colleagues remained stone-faced by Obama's typical and completely expected condemnation of the campaign finance decision handed down by the Supreme Court last week? It's called "restraint." As a "conservative," you should probably look it up.

In the camera shot for Bob McDonnell's Republican response was a "rainbow of diversity," as Brian Williams called it after. Four people flanking the Virginia governor: two men, two women, including a black and an Asian. I would've loved to have been there for the pre-pro. "No, no, no...can we make the women diagonal in the camera?"

McCain's crabby sniping. We could all read your lips. "Blaming Bush...blaming Bush." Yeah, after only a year in office following probably the worst president in history, I think he still has carte blanche on that angle. Deal with it. It was certainly the foundation of your 2004 campaign, and you weren't exactly begging Bush for an endorsement in 2008, either.

But the biggest stinker of the night was Obama shouting the populist line, "Jobs are our number one priority!" Then why have you been wasting almost an entire year on healthcare "reform", with virtually no action on trying to get Americans actually healthier? Michelle's lip service to childhood obesity isn't going to do squat when former McDonald's and Kraft CEOs are running the Department of Agriculture. If we don't get healthier, demand on the system will not decrease. That is what is broken with healthcare. Fix that, and then maybe we can afford to insure the entire country. Anything less amounts to enabling our destructive lifestyle.


Hump Day

There were two dogs with us the night we went coon hunting. One was an old hound, veteran of a thousand campaigns, who knew what we were up to and who wasted no time in idle diversions. The other was a puppy, brought along to observe and learn; to him the star-sprinkled sky and the deep dark woods and the myriad scents and the lateness of the hour and the frosty ground were intoxicating. The excitement of our departure was too much for his bowels. Tied in the truck, he was purged all the way over to Winkumpaw Brook and was hollow as a rotten log before the night was well under way.

--- EB White, "Coon Hunt"


I, too, have a dream...

The most telling statistic here is that teenage drivers licenses peaked in 1978 at 12 million, and now stand at less than 10. This got to be effecting the bottom line here. How wonderful to read this. As fucked up as the world can be, these are exciting times we live in, to be standing on the cusp on such massive change.

Thanks to I Go With Fergus for the link.


I have resolved this year to train harder, smarter, and more focused than ever before, yet when it comes to racing, I only plan on having fun. After last year's near-meltdown in Peoria, I've realized I put too much pressure on myself as an amateur athlete. While the stated, concrete goal is of course racing as a Category 2 cyclist by the end of the season, I won't consider it a failure if I don't make it having raced without regret, knowing I had and used all the physical tools at my disposal along the way.

I went to a New Year's Resolution party shortly after the holiday, and made, among friends, what's known as a visionboard. You might call it a collage, which it is, but the truth of it lies in the process of making it. From Patty360:

3. Make a Vision Board

I have a serious obsession with vision boards. It started a few years ago when I made one at a New Year’s Day party and by the Eve of the following year, EVERYTHING on the board came true. Now it’s a tradition of mine to make a board with each new year and make smaller specific boards to help create positive experiences in other areas of my life (starting a new job, planning a party, designing a wardrobe). What is a vision board? Short version (this deserves its own post): Vision boards utilize The Law of Attraction and are a functional tool to keep your affirmations and visions for the future present in your thoughts. The idea is to create a collage using words or pictures that evoke positive emotions associated with the future you want to live. It allows you to live the future *now* as if you are already there. Some people start with a list of goals they want to obtain and then look for images to capture those. I find it works better to sift through pictures in magazines and pull out what speaks to me and look for themes and patterns from there. This allows the subconcious to detect what the concious mind overlooks. There are times when I don’t even know what an item means when I add it on the board, but I always discover the meaning in the future experiences I have. Give it a try, with no expectations, the first timers often experience the best results.

I have to say my first attempt wasn't totally subconscious, but I made an effort to simply identify the imagery that spoke to me. No surprise that, among many other themes, there are two pictures of Frank Schleck on my board. Success on the bike is a big one. I left the room on sort of a high from all of the positive energy in there. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to take a peek at what I was capable of achieving.

After bringing my creation home and hanging it on my wall, I just went about my January, letting it speak to me, and within days, I'd begun to see why the bike was important to me, how I was blocking myself from having fun, and how the bike will continue to be a part of my life for years to come. I believe this is the first time in my life I have ever given myself such a personal, self-motivating goal. And I find it amusing, even astounding, yet not surprising upon realization, that this approach has eluded me nearly all of my life.

It is no coincidence that I have not missed a workout since, that I feel almost mid-season strong with much form to come, and that I am looking forward to racing more than ever.

The lesson? Publicly state your goals. Sharing them with people who care will help you stay on target.


Thursday Hate

Adults who drink milk.

People who fart in yoga class.


iPhones at trivia night.

"Black, please...Black...Uh, no...BLACK...This has cream in it."



Hump Day

Lookin' like 1994 around here today. And if the Democrats keep it up through the summer we'll definitely be traveling back in time.

I'm not surprised in the least by Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. To all of you that are shocked and maybe depressed about it: what did you think would be the reaction to the extremely partisan healthcare debate going on in Congress right now? Guess what? There's more coming this fall. This is what happens when you ram through legislation and mistake a landslide electoral victory for a mandate when the popular vote was still razor thin.

Obama's and the Congress' monumental sin was asking a yes or no question on "change" and not bothering to clarify "what" or "why."

Not that I care in the least. Neither party has ever learned that lesson, nor will they ever. I don't understand the emotional see-sawing of people from election to election. It's beyond annoying to have to deal with people's gloating or moaning after elections. The electorate is largely nothing but a flock of sheep staring at the greener grass on the other side of the fence every four years.

What happened after Newt Gingrich's 1994 coronation as the leader of the GOP and their sanctimonious "Contract With America"? Bill Clinton destroyed Bob Dole in the 1996 election and went on to become one of the most popular presidents of all time. Then, of course, in 2000 George W. Bush was going to save us from Democratic excess, in 2006 and 2008 the Congress and Obama were going to save us from Republican excess...[making jerk off motions]and now it's again come full circle [/making jerk-off motions].

I for one, am glad about Scott Brown's election, for two reasons:

First, it will put the brakes on the partisan healthcare reform now being crafted in Congress, the very existence of which is fomenting such dissent in the famously dark blue state. Not one goddamn word is being said about getting Americans healthier. About throwing out the leaders and powerful influence of "food" corporations from the Department of Agriculture and our national food policy. Without concrete actions to get Americans actually healthier, the demand on the system will not abate, and neither will costs. Therefore any attempt to "reform" it is only further turning it into a disease-management system perpetuating our chronic ailments and obesity and making as much profit as possible on that misery.

It's called Capitalism, people - on both sides of the equation. Meanwhile the US government continues to subsidize the industrial overproduction of food - primarily corn and soybeans - to the tune of more than 3,500 calories per American per day. And the marketing and lobbying efforts of the above mentioned companies are making sure those extra calories are purchased and consumed.

Second, this guy might just catch lightening in a bottle like Sarah Palin did just over a year ago, and hopefully has the brains to actually do something with it; not to mention distract the sheep from that other dumbass. While I really do feel the US President is not much more than a figurehead at which the sheep's' anger is redirected whenever necessary, if this country is going to have a Republican president, we could not do worse than Sarah Palin.


Chicago Symphony - The Rite of Spring

With David Robertson - music director of the St. Louis Symphony - guest conducting, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took the stage this weekend in tribute to Director Emeritus Pierre Boulez and some of his favorite composers to celebrate his 85th birthday. The program included Olivier Messiaen - Les offrandes oubliƩes ("The forgotten offerings"), (1930), Alban Berg's Violin Concerto (1935), and the inimitable Igor Stravinsky's , Le Sacre du Printemps, ("The Rite of Spring"), (1913), perhaps the most important classical work of the 20th Century. Its premiere was extraordinarily controversial and it is widely regarded as the birth of modern music.

I was held fairly rapt by the Messiaen, which I'd never heard before. The single movement work is in A-B-A form: a haunting chorale between the winds and strings sandwiches an intense and cacophonous middle section showcasing the brass. I have never been a much of a fan of the CSO strings since I've been listening to them live (1997 when I moved here) but they really had a soft touch tonight. I hung on every chord change, surprised right to the end. After listening to the above You Tube link, however, I must say that the live performance I heard doesn't match the edge and fireworks you'll hear there in the B section.

The Berg also left me wanting more. Not to say it wasn't greatly entertaining - I was also experiencing this piece for the first time as well. Kyoko Takezawa was a capable soloist, and the concerto itself was not the austere, atonal piece I was expecting. It was actually quite tender, if a bit ham handed towards the end.

After the intermission I sat down in my seat with a lot of anticipation. Rite of Spring is one of my favorite pieces and the CSO is known for playing it well. In fact, I'd most recently seen it performed at Orchestra Hall two years ago, staged with Hubbard Street Dance. Le Sacre's history is steeped in legend ever since its 1913 Paris premiere caused an infamous riot.

Anticipation became excitement that grew through the tenuous opening strains of the bassoon and other winds, only to peter out and die as the metronomic rhythm began in the strings. It should've been savage and brutal, yet was only anemic. This continued throughout the performance, with only flashes of brilliance revealed, usually in the brass. The back row still has it and always has, although I am sad to say Dale Clevenger (principal horn) is getting noticeably old. The percussion truly stood out here, the bass drum in particular. The primality that was missing elsewhere roared forth in the famous bass drum roll, and many times she carried the entire orchestra on her shoulders.

The entire performance was still very good, but not great as is almost counted on. Still, not really the group's fault here, I'm going to venture. Much of the time, Robertson seemed to just be beating time, content to the let kids run the class room, and as expected, the quality suffered a bit. The CSO is famous for bullying guest conductors, and it is no coincidence that the orchestra's best years (although it is still ranked #5 in the world by Gramophone) were under the totalitarian regimes of Fritz Reiner and Sir Georg Solti.

Overall, not the best performance I've seen down on Michigan Avenue, but individual stars did shine brightly, enabled by a smart program highlighting the trailblazing greats of 20th Century music.


Thursday Hate

I hate this guy.


Really? A used car salesman? With a "Simpsons" avatar? Wearing a BLUE TOOTH HEADSET?!

I even have more followers than him and I just sent my first fucking tweet tonight.



Oops, I tweeted...excuse me!

Hi there! If you've come via Twitter, welcome to The Car Whisperer: Bicycling, Poetry and Other Bullshit.

I actually have a lot more to say than that, but I'd say that's a good representation of what you'll find here, on my personal blog.

I am a competitive cyclist.

I follow politics.

I am a poet.

And I hate you. Probably.

This should be enough keep you busy for a while. If you'd like even more, I've just started a new food blog, "Big city. Little plate." where I am documenting my experiment with eating only locally produced food.


Thursday Hate

Spinning class where you are the only one sweating.

Spinning class with southern rock.

Spinning class instructors who look like a fat Ronnie at age 45 and clad head to toe in Livestrong.

How the hell do you do push ups on the bike? And I'm sure as hell not going to do push ups on the floor. I'm here to ride a bike asshole. I'll lift weights in the gym.


Mighty fine 2009: the best that I could do

As I searched for the right words to begin this post, I was heading into the final sunrise of the year at 30,000 feet, having left the place of my birth far behind me. Looking back on 2009 I was at a loss to find any accomplishments that were truly momentous. Most were relative to the bike obsession only, achievements that are meaningless to anybody with hairy legs. I felt an immediate compulsion to declare 2010 the Year of Getting Something done. However, upon arrival in Chicago that night, amid good friends and wine, I realized that I'd already done it. I had started the year utterly alone in searching for deeper meaning, and that night I was ending it with new found purpose and a positive spirit to guide me there.

365 days earlier, New Year’s Day began epically enough, with a full body hangover and a kitchen that hearkened back to my college days standards of cleanliness. The night before we’d hosted a 12-course dinner to ring in the New Year and judging by the all the empty dishes I set about ignoring, it was a smashing success. I smiled briefly at the empty Jell-O shots on the floor.

First things first: coffee and recovery while I waited for Katy to wake up. The Dark Knight got me through until it was time to clean up the mess.

It wasn’t as bad as it looked and we mowed through the worst of the baked-on grease, dried cheese, and heavy pots pretty quickly. While she went back to bed, I settled into the remainder of the Winter Classic from Wrigley Field, smiling as NBC tried to drown out the chant of “Detroit sucks!” from the raucous crowd, in front of me a huge plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and a gourmet Bloody Mary using the leftovers from last night, including the prime rib and stilton cheese. I found myself amidst the thick of an ice cold day where I'd not see the outside or even so much as a pair of pants, keeping my thoughts to myself as I watched movie after movie and delayed reality as much as possible.

And kept them to myself I did, all the way to the move out in late March which was as life-changing a day as I had ever experienced. Jack and I walked the mile and a half to my new apartment in Irving Park on a cool, spring evening at sunset and I wondered where else I was headed. I'd dreaded this day ever since I agreed to move in with Katy - not that I'd known it would end this way, but that it could - and here I was expecting the worst was still around the corner.

But what greeted me instead was clarity and simplification. Let me back up…

I was carrying with me, and still do, a heavy load of guilt for allowing my obsession with the bike to put such a gulf between me and the people I'd called friends since nearly 1999. Yet the late nights filled with cigarettes and alcohol no longer excite me because my mornings are much more important now. Would I rather wake up to nausea and a headache or the giddy anticipation of a soul-cleansing, five hour ride? I didn’t know what else to do than to make those relationships work as best they could under the circumstances while embracing the new friends I have.

But this last relationship wasn’t going to work under any circumstances. And moving into another apartment in less than a year had me second-guessing how important cycling competitively really was to me.

But that night as I walked into my new home, I looked down at Jack, who was of course looking right back at me. I then saw that our relationship was now another level completely. Back on January 1st we’d been contemplating sending him back to rescue…he just wasn’t working out…fitting in, we told ourselves…but in the end I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t fair to him, he is just being himself: a hyper, food-driven, inquisitive, loves-to-cuddle 30-pound Rottweiler-terrier mix.

And so I took him with me. By making that conscious choice to include him in my new life changed everything. With him now the central focus, and moving next door to my friend who owned the building I was living in, I quickly became part of a close group of friends, all part of the neighborhood, all with dogs.

I then realized my time off of the bike was much more important as the time on it, and as soon as I did, I began reaping the harvest from a newly balanced approach to life. But it wasn't just me - suddenly I was among friends who's schedule and pace of life jibed with mine. My neighbor Mark is a bikemate who comes on my Saturday rides with me, and the rest, Tina, Susan, Rob, Cari and Scott, Kayla and Janucz are always up for a backyard hang or beers and Mexican food at El Potosi down the street.

It's not that nobody else in my life has been this for me - I know I must sound ungrateful to anyone else reading this - but the timing just couldn't be better.

As Tina said at Susan's New Year's Eve party, "Brian, of course you've done something this year! Look around you - you have a posse now!" And Rob drove it home the following Saturday: "you're the glue, man. Before, I never really hung out at our neighborhood joints, and we certainly didn't do much like the dinner parties you throw." Indeed, the week I moved in I made a knockout risotto Milanese and invited them all over to stand in my kitchen and eat it. Nothing more formal than that. We were up until two and I put 15 wine bottles into the recycling. I repeated with rabbit stew the week before Thanksgiving.

It was a really warm feeling just then, to realize I have such supportive friends who are on such a similar wavelength as I. The guilt and regret are still there, always will be, but I have to go with what works best.

In 2009, I think I found my soul. Imagine what I can do in 2010 with that.

Now, a look back , 2009's Top 20:

1. Quality time.

2. ...and then going too far.

3. The new whip.

4. Leaving for San Luis Obispo (and more).

5. Back to Mt. Mitchell.

6. The breakthrough.

7. Almost...

8.. Sherman Park.

9. Jack goes mobile.

10. Tandemonium.

11. Shut up and ride, asshole.

12. My favorite race of the season.

13. 500th post.

14. Charm City invasion.

15. My first cross race.

16. Party pooper.

17. Race day hooky.

18. Stew.

19. The smile.

20. Home for Christmas.