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Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 06:02:03 +0000

 



The BRC has moved--

Tue, 03 Sep 2013 15:02:00 +0000

All the turpentine you can drink, and all the barbed wire you can eat available now @

www.bigringcircus.com



Blessed are the Pilgrims

Fri, 23 Aug 2013 01:05:00 +0000

Listening to a 35 year-old song in a 26 year-old van I feel like a historian trying on the artifacts. 

He is riding in the rain, a downpour so powerful that it drowns out the music and the rattle of the old motor jangling on broken mounts in the chassis.  A rain so complete, that I imagine there is no space left for the air he is sucking as he climbs the long grade into Taylor county.  Loaded down with full racks, he is not the visionary or the vagabond, but a rider prepared for the journey.  Is he a one-day epic artist or a cross-nation explorer?  Despite the sheets of water and the speed, I can see this is a young man.

I want to pull over and offer him something, and why is that? To see the pilgrim on hajj is to see free will flexed, and what inspires more than free will, enjoyed and asserted?  In my instant assessment I determine he needs nothing I have, and truthfully, it makes more sense to stop and ask him, "What can you spare for me?"  Can you part with a little courage? Afford me a small handful of freedom from fear? Peel off a bit of ache in the knees, and the conviction to ease up just a tad, but keep going through the rain to a soaking campsite and a camp-stove under the fly to warm the spirits.  Perhaps a little extravagance of rum stuffed in a sock and stashed in a cook pan? Brother?  Can you help me?

Sitting at the San Felasco trailhead, with the bike in the back, I watch it rain and rain, and I can't be bothered to unload for a sloppy, slow grind that won't be enough to break me from the tethers that keep me from tumbling off the earth. 

The truth is I am a working man, who owns a bike.  I like to ride it when I can, but it's raining today and my dress shirt hangs ironed behind my head, and people are expecting me to help them tomorrow, with things I can't ignore.

So is this still the adventure?  Is he killing time, or am I?

Juancho



Too late

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 18:12:00 +0000

My arm is sore from patting myself on the back so much for being a strident supporter of equal rights for gay, lesbian, and transgender people.  I wrote this and got some things off my chest, and many of you were complimentary and supportive, and that was lovely.  

Elvis Presley recorded some 800 songs in his career, and to my knowledge In the Ghetto was the only one that addressed a social issue.  We all have our causes.  As a writer, I avoid using my digital soapbox to advocate, because in the end we all sing to our own choirs and go home with sore arms.  What's the point?  If it matters to you, sacrifice for it.  Go sleep in the Capitol rotunda for 31 days.    Stand on the right side of the street at a protest and get called a faggot.  Go out and get your skull cracked for the right to vote. 

And yet:

I need to tell you a story about how everything being done to support the gay rights movement, or the Big Gay Agenda, is just too late.  Too late for some anyway.  I saw an old friend this week in Texas.  An early mentor of mine, she has spent most of her life working on behalf of kids who are homeless, runaways, or otherwise lost and forgotten.  No better or worse a person than the rest of us, but a damn good egg.  In all the time I have known her she has been with her partner, Nadia,  another good egg.  They raised a family together, and their kids now have kids, and there is even a great-grand child at this point. 

Her partner, her love, and her soulmate  fell ill with a catastrophic brain injury, requiring many surgeries that she somehow survived.  She lost much of her ability to speak, and requires constant in home care, that my friend was willing and able to handle.  Instead, Nadia's aging mother was given power of attorney over her daughter, and promptly moved her 800 miles away from her home.  You see, Nadia's mother doesn't believe in gay.   Now, on the rarest occasion, they are permitted to see each other.  Nadia is making great progress, but is still unable to assert her wishes legally so this family remains broken, because by the laws of this land they are not a family at all. 

I hope on the day this nation arrives into the light, we celebrate even as we hang our heads in shame for the damage that can never be undone.

Have a nice weekend, enjoy your family time.

Juancho





Indian Springs

Fri, 09 Aug 2013 13:40:00 +0000

I lumbered along the Dauset trail in middle Georgia wheezing from the heat, lurching through roots and rocks with my mouth hanging open, sucking soggy air that gave me nothing.  Just put your tires on the dirt and roll a little while, that was all I wanted.  95 degrees at 6 O'clock, I could blame that.  Suffocating 78% humidity, I can definitely blame that.  Consecutive weeks of road and air travel, driving in the rutted out lanes of FL Highway 20, twin tracks full of water and methed out passers over double yellow lines, that-- or freefalling in my seat as the Bombardier CRJ200 thumps through billowing nimbus clouds dropping into the Atlanta airport, where more germs than an elementary school await, life on the road ain't easy. 

I pulled up at a picnic table to sort things out.  Let's just get real here Juancho, you feel like shit and you're riding like a middle age traveling salesman. 

I stripped off helmet, gloves, and sweat gutter, then noticed I was not alone.  A lone doe watched me from 20 yards away in the edge of the trees, curious with ears pointed forward.  How does one call a deer?  I tried the skich,skich, skich, and the smch, smch, smch but it just watched me.  I threw some dried mango on the ground, ran the hose over my head, then geared up for the sad ride back to the van. 

I needed something, some magic, so I put off I-75 for a little bit longer and barreled down GA 42 to Indian Springs State Park.  A lead pipe trickles sulphorous water in a stone spring-house, and the locals believe it will heal you.  A couple is busy filling dozens of containers: milk jugs, jerry cans, Gatorade bottles, Coleman thermoses, two-liter Mountain Dew bottles, and more.  The woman motions me to the spigot and I fill a water bottle.  The man silently totes the full containers up the hill to his car over and over without stopping. 

I want to ask them what they think about the water, why they covet it so highly, but instead I just climb the hill back to the van.  Back on the interstate, with 8 lanes of traffic blasting north, I wrinkle my nose at the egg smell and gulp it down.

Juancho



The Dynamite Kid

Wed, 31 Jul 2013 17:20:00 +0000

       The Dynamite Kid used to clean my room for whatever spare change he could find.  I would lay on my stomach on the bed, hands crossed under my chin and who knows what we discussed? Imaginary girlfriends, Galaga, and what we wanted to buy from Kmart most likely.  I think my mom knew about our arrangement and had no issue with me sub-contracting. 

TDK was my best friend and technically, he never forfeited the job.  I remember the day Mr. Howard, our 5th grade teacher, asked me to stick with the new kid for his first day and help him out.  I loved Mr. Howard, but this was pushing it.  I agreed with a wishy-washy nod and gestured for the new kid to come on already and let's go eat lunch. 

It was cold that day, at least in the 50's and we were all bundled up in Central Florida.  The Dynamite Kid wore a Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt and elastic athletic shorts.  We all thought he was poor because he didn't have a coat.  He was a chunky kid. His eyes were slanted, his skin was brown and he said he moved here from Alaska.  Everyone called him Eskimo. 

They didn't call him that for long. Eskimo could fight.  I found myself the de facto best friend of a controversial 5th grader, a son of a single-parent father who was a Correctional Officer who understood the sad need for his kid to make a few trips to the office.  His Pittsburgh Steelers ball cap would tumble to the floor in the hall and I would think, here we go again, as The Dynamite Kid turned head down to tackle whomever had felt the need to test the Eskimo.  

Before much longer I became the son of two single-parents myself and The Dynamite Kid taught me a lot about negotiating the post-divorce middle school environment.  

By 10th grade I was working with him in the Chinese restaurant he adopted when he was 10.  They hired him because he wouldn't go away.  Everyone thought the owners were his parents.  They didn't know he was a non-Eskimo, non-Chinese, half-Thai, half Irish kid.   We would get off work and go break-dance behind Winn Dixie or K-Mart, which is when he became The Dynamite Kid.

After his father died he moved back to Alaska, where he stayed for many years.  

Last week we met in Nashville to teach a class together about Race and Culture. 

I started the class by telling everyone this story.  

Juancho





23

Fri, 26 Jul 2013 19:31:00 +0000


In all the years I have written this blog nobody has ever asked me what a Ringcircus is, they just assume that Big and Ring go together.  Language is ambiguous though, and you can't take the words coming out of someone's mouth as proof of comprehension.  It's kind of like that first psychedlic experience where the letters of your own name unravel in your mouth until they make no sense to you and therefore you make no sense to you and therefore you question the very essence of who you is, until thankfully you realize that the you having these thoughts must be who you are and therefore everything will probably be fine, unless you look in the mirror.  *disclaimer (or so I have heard.)

I'm reading the biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, and let me tell you (the real you) that being friends with that guy was no picnic.  At least I understand why Infinite Jest just sort of quietly whimpered out at the end.  That was the whole point, to have no climax.  It wasn't anticlimactic, it was aclimactic, and supposedly there is a difference to be appreciated there. 

So 23 was a really good year for me, 1993, with a discman and a Nissan Sentra a young man could rule the world.  Priorities were simple and clear- more fun, less work, don't think about the future. I still stand by that strategy, although it wanes in popularity. 

93 turned into 94 and every step took me further away from the shadow of Mt. Teewinot in the darkening light with a new pair of bootlaces the closest thing to health insurance, and the indulgent weight of a Sheaf stout reassuring against your lumbar, the snap of a twig so loud you cringe when it cracks against the silence. Oh easy times. 

"Do you ever wish you were young again?" My wife asked me I suppose in response to the effortless calisthenics of watching babies do yoga.  "No honey, no way! Never do I want to be so wide-eyed and stupid again, so sure of myself when I clearly don't know enough to close my mouth in the rain when looking up." Young again? Ridiculous!  Honey we are young, and getting younger every day.  here we sit in the sweet spot of old enough to know better, too young to care.  In charge of our path, comfortable in our own skin, and a dependable friend on which to lean. No my darling, I do not want to be young again.

But I lie, and she knows it, and we keep that secret together.                 

Juancho



Opelika

Wed, 24 Jul 2013 18:26:00 +0000

Two years ago I had a secret.  I was about to go and see my best girl for the first time in 26 yearsI was nervous and hopeful.  I am re-posting this from the days before we met so you understand that when I write about bike rides, they are almost never really about bike rides.  That's one of the reasons bikes are magical creatures.  

I filled my jersey pockets with big scooping handfuls of Munson sand last night so that I would not float away. I felt light, not just in heft, but light of heart as well. Worry-free, content. I pedaled into the malingering crowd a moment before departure. There is W.B. There is his enforcer, his son. There is Big Worm. I bobbed along near them, daylight blinking beneath my tires as I inhaled and exhaled.

I left the pack in the car. No tube, no pump, no patchkit. No tools, first-aid kit, spare glasses or food. Two strong legs, a water bottle, and some hope for the future- that's all I carried. I joined the current of riders as they seeped up the trail. At the top of the hill someone said, "If you want to go fast, then go now" and everybody waited. Two guys, then Big Worm, and when nobody moved for his wheel, I took it.

We galloped along in big ground-gobbling strides, and I hung on long enough to taste what it might be to belong there. After 5 or so miles the spell was broken. Maybe I tapped a brake, or burned the last molecule of the previous day's hamburger, but I kept on. I watched the Clydesdale on the back of Worm's jersey slowly pull away through the trees until it was gone.

I waited for the WB, and rode it in with he and his boy, my barrel smoking and low on ammo. Too much fun, too much stupid available joy to be had, out there floating away.
 

Juancho




Old Men and Soldiers

Wed, 17 Jul 2013 16:28:00 +0000

Sitting in the van watching the rain pour down, neither Squatch nor I were too happy to see a grim Joey B roll up to the Munson parking lot on his bike.  Standing out there in the rain, shaking his head at us, we pretended we didn't understand his get on your bikes gestures so we shrugged and waved and called out hey bro it's raining! through the tiniest crack of the window. 

Wisely, he slid open the bay door and joined us, slopping sweat and rainwater into the velour of my '98 Safari.  Get out of this car and get on your bikes he ordered, as we filibustered retorts of hey man, you watch the tour today?  Crazy huh? He was having none of it, so we grimly decamped the vehicle and suited up for a grind.

The guy parked next to us made his move at the same time, remarking something like Might as well get this suckfest over with, and after a few I hear that brothers! our crew pointed due south for Twilight where we enjoyed a sandy and grit-filled spin through the carpet of ferns and pines, Joey a few hundred yard ahead most of the way while Squatch and I rode 2007 style chattering and clucking like hens.  The wet crust of sand cracking as we rode over it, the grit splattering up shins and into every crease on the bike, the pace just fast enough, yet not really fast at all.

Back at the van, with the rain relenting, Joey B asserted his prowess and passed on the free ride home, pedaling off up the St. Marks Trail to town.  Squatch and I what's upped? the guy next to us, also just wrapping up his ride. 

Ryan, recently back from Afghanistan, glad to be done with his service, done with school and casting about for what comes next.  Ride your bike and avoid all responsibility I thought and said out loud. This younger generation though, cursed with ambition and purpose, he was leaning more towards finding work.

Bigringcircus, google it I told him.  It's the perfect place to start this next phase of your life. 

I hope he finds this, and lets us drag him around the woods until he knows what's next.

Juancho



Little Friends

Tue, 09 Jul 2013 18:19:00 +0000

Two big fox squirrels side by side, one with a shimmery black coat, shiny as a polished nut and the other with a whiskery white shagged hide.  What, the distinction?  Male and female?  Mature and juvenile?  Both of them as big as an apricot poodle and quick, quick, quick.   Caught out, exposed on the recent charcoal burn of the forest floor, no convenient turkey oaks to hide them- the sleek-pelted one candy-caned around a pine tree shedding ticker tape bark as it tore-ass up the tree.  The sound of it's claws like a 1950's newsroom.   The wire-brush white one statue still, waiting in the open, concerned maybe, but not alarmed.  All of this taken in by eyes flooded with sweat, smeared by the blinking, the rubbing, the blinking, the rubbing, but not so bleary that I missed these two, away from the drey and roaming about.  I stopped, as I often do, to check them out and contemplate the heft of them, the reassuring grip of their feet wound up in the twine of my jacket as we strode out on the town, my two squirrels and me.  Or so I imagined, but it can never be, the squirrels and I as close as is likely right now.  If only, I think, they could stop by the house.  Pay a visit and enjoy a drink with me on the porch before traveling on, to the places squirrels go in the summer.

"I see you up there!" to the chattering one with the sleek, dark coat.  "Good day to you sir!" To the one on the ground with the disheveled bottle-brush tail.  I'll be back, I think to myself before riding on.  Again, and again, and again, and again.

Juancho





Cheers

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 19:51:00 +0000

I asked for a beer in a tavern on the road to Mostar from Sarajevo back in 1996.  The bartender set up a glass and a warm can of beer.  I remember touching the can and correcting him, hladno pivo molim, a cold beer please.  The young man said nothing, his forelock of greasy dark hair between his eyes, and he brought me a new can, wet from a hose behind the building, the same temperature as the first.  

My friend and host, momentarily distracted, missed the transaction and asked the bartender something I did not understand.  "he said that's the last one for you" he told me.  "What did I do?" I asked, offended  and hurt.  You want a cold beer?  He says go back to America and get one.  In a country freshly ruined from war, I blunder in mincing about beer vs. a cold beer, oblivious that to drink a beer at all, in a quiet room of strangers and smoke a cigarette, was a priceless gift from God, and that the only good response is živjeli
  

I can taste the shame of that Lasko Pivo in the back of my throat as I write this 17  years later, and I would give anything to go back and drink that first warm can, and enjoy it, and buy another.

Juancho




Wily Cooter

Mon, 24 Jun 2013 15:01:00 +0000


I don't know Calipash from Calipee, but we ran into this soft-shelled turtle up on the banks of Lake Lafayette on Sunday morning.  It was three feet across at the shoulders, and she croaked out a tune that sounded like Wayfaring Stranger, but I can't be certain of that.  The air was so wet the poor girl probably thought we were in her lake and not she on the land.

We visited with her long enough for one fellow to pull the plug of white pine out of his seat tube and whittle it down some more, having broken his seat bolt within minutes of starting the ride.  Now, for myself, a broken seat bolt is a God-given first-class ticket to the couch on a steamy North Florida morning.  Such a catastrophic mechanical is a guilt-free reason to bump down the A.C. and watch Elle Woods win over the curmudgeonly brunette and triumph in spite of, and with the aid of, gender stereotyping.  A broken seat bolt?  Why it might take until October to fix such a thing!

Instead, we were treated to a first-class trail save the likes of which I have never seen.  I have packed ripped tires full of pine needles, trued wheels with force against trees, converted more bikes to single speed than are worth counting, and wrapped more dollar bills under sidewall tears than George Washington, but I had never seen this particular solution of plugging the seat tube to hold up a seat post.

it's getting a little techie in here, and I apologize to my friends who prefer to knit potholders, or devise a cooling system for a 1965 Shasta trailer, but I am talking about American Ingenuity damn it all.  It saved us from the Nazis, and it brought us the 37 flavor serve yourself yogurt bar so you would do well to endure the minutiae and appreciate a man who carries a pocket knife and knows how to use it.

So by the time Joey had risked losing a finger to this old girl, JB was back in the saddle and ready to roll.  1992 steel frame, rigid fork,  and cantilever brakes surrounded by full suspension, carbon fiber, and 29 " tubeless tires.

Only a bad carpenter blames his tools.  If you want it, find a way.

Juancho



Where is your salt?

Mon, 17 Jun 2013 14:03:00 +0000

A dead Canadian goose moulders against the curb on my way to work.  I noticed it freshly killed last week and today it is almost gone, dismantled and rendered for  carrion.  So sad to see it last week with soft brown feathers fluttering in the wind of annoyed traffic revving to make the light.  I wonder who hit it and how they felt, and if they cared.  Did it ruin their day? Did it cause them to reel in momentary horror, like seeing your fingernail pulled back, un-moored from the quick and fleshy before bleeding?

We rode across the forest on Saturday, early but not early enough, out to the sinkholes.  There's been no rain for days and days so the water was settled and calm, clear and cold.  Nobody was there, and we fell into the cold water one at a time, and told stories of Darin jumping from the top of the tree and collapsing a lung, and how Germans appreciate it when you speak English with a cartoonish German accent.

We lingered as long as we could, postponing the stifling march back across the forest, battling gravity, the sun, the sand, ignoring the folly of two and a half hours in the saddle for a twenty minute swim.

I got woozy, dizzy, and wondered what happens when you really can't turn another pedal and you are somewhere in the woods without a cold coke in sight.  I spoke up.  I gave notice.  I got help in the form of a salt capsule.  A pittance, I thought.  A kindness, a final communion, a placebo, but no solution.  It made all the difference.

 Juancho







Hot Wednesday

Thu, 13 Jun 2013 18:48:00 +0000


The look on my face should say it all.  The heat was so intense when I walked out of the house at 8:00 O'Clock in the morning it felt like someone whacked me in the ear with a switch.  Now, 8 hours and 18 degrees (99) later it was time to go for a bike ride.

Why?  Because-- that's why.  There are people who own bikes.  There are people who are cyclists, then there are riders.  Riders ride.  Besides, after being released from my air-conditioned cell I craved the suffering. I needed the immediate and all-consuming presence of effort to blot out the day's tedium and confining press of the Dockers asking me, "Don't you think it's time to go up a size?"

So out into the streets and woods we rolled, Joey and I, posing for this shot while we played cat and mouse with a questionable vehicle in a questionable location.  I spared you the midriff, which feels more like a mostriff, and the plunging neckline of my sleeveless gown.

The air smelled like burnt toast, and when we stopped to address a flat, the sweat ran unbroken from the gutter under my helmet.

I like these summer rides for one thing.  They prove I am meant to be in this saddle.

Juancho



Steam

Thu, 06 Jun 2013 13:54:00 +0000

Every person only gets so much steam.  It is up to each of us to decide how to use it or let it leak out of its own accord.  

No pictures, just words.  Steady rain knocking fat magnolia blossoms onto the sidewalk like fried eggs slipping onto the Waffle House floor.  The smell of them so sweet it is pornographic and I blush just driving over them in the road.

A bike ride last night 20 years overdue with Joey B and an old friend who ate potato soup on a cold day while carving out the first mountain bike trail in Tallahassee that I ever knew of, sweet Grandma Munson.  Maybe it was potato soup, or maybe said he built a chicken coop, his pink bike spinning so fast I heard nothing but wind.

A fresh clean burn on the forest, setting the crest of Woodpeckers off in contrast with the matte black floor of the burned pine needles, green shoots of grass already reaching up over pedals. Long views through the missing underbrush, blueberries hidden off the trail not quite ready.

Just falling into each pedal stroke hoping to never hit the bottom, yarding the next one up around the 12 O' clock and then hammering towards earth.  I can hear them back there, one wrong move and they will have me.  No wrong moves tonight though.  I'm all on the one and riffing on the breaks.

The way points north to Alabama tomorrow.  I'll lay my head back and watch the sun shine down on the great south and loll away the miles while my girl pins it to the white line and cocks her foot up on the dash.


Juancho



Tallahassee Blogger Convention

Mon, 03 Jun 2013 13:33:00 +0000


That title might be a bit hyperbolic, but I ran into Ms. Moon, of www.blessourhearts.blogspot.com Friday night.  Look at us out on the town.  Not bad for a woman who prefers the company of chickens and a misanthropic cyclist.  She was there with a whole mess of family, to watch her friends play some music.  I was there to apply for a dish-washing job.   I'm afraid I tanked the interview, but I aced the swimsuit competition. 

-Juancho



Ole Boy's Club

Fri, 31 May 2013 17:25:00 +0000


We stood around the car talking tomatoes like farmers.  What do you do about boring caterpillars? Walk away or change the subject? I thought but I guess they meant something different. 

Just a scorching fast out and back up the Miccosukee Greenway sliding around the shell-covered turns hoping to not see a family of four, or a dog-walker around the next blind turn.  Just four of us, an uneventful day except it is so unlikely to see the old BRC crew together again.  All we needed was ole Tommy the Torso and it would have been a reunion.

I've got to take it easy! says one.
I thought we came out to ride! says another.
What about some fellowship? says Sasquatch.
I can take you all any time I want. thinks Juancho.

It's getting so hot I could start riding naked, and this ain't nothing yet, as we say all summer long.

4 old guys leaning on a Volvo talking about tomatoes, carbon fiber, and the weather.  Yes ma'am, yes sir, a thrill a minute and punk rock still lives.  Deep down inside our gluten-free hearts, just around the corner from Mortgage avenue, in a coldwater flat at the end of marriage and family way.

-Juancho



Reality tastes like dust

Fri, 24 May 2013 14:02:00 +0000


The dust that Poncho bit down south ended up in Lefty's mouth, and I know how Lefty feels.

The forest floor was still smoking from a burn, the trail an ashen pillow, and me- the last in line. I hit that section the last of seven and holding up well enough, the pace so hard I felt I was being reeled in, the prize lunker.  I clawed for my jersey zipper, yanking.  It was already down to my navel. I sucked water and coughed it out as the need for air took priority.  The trail turned uphill and rivets started popping from my hull.  A scrub oak branch snapped back into my face, I spit blood and grit over my front tire, and that is about when I called it quits.  Dropped my friends, like a hit record on the first day of summer.

My last few rides had me believing I was better than that.  Two hour epics of flow and spin with my friend Steve, the ever-steady man of mystery.  Turns out we were caught in a collective delusion.  Two bums straightening each others' collars, "And a fine good day to you sir, don't you look smashing this morning!"  "Well thank you good sir, you are the perfect image of vigor and health yourself if I have ever seen a more able gentleman I will eat my hat!"  And away we go toddering down the trail and passing the Wild Irish Rose.

"There is no such thing as patience."  Bill said, "There is only impatience and the way the universe reveals itself."  Or something like that. 

Juancho





Peace Chicken

Mon, 13 May 2013 16:46:00 +0000


 1996-

     We frequently had to push-start the Peace Chicken.  It turned over with a little nudge, back-fired and roared in first gear while the pusher climbed back in the sliding bay door and said, "Hit it!"

     With that, the driver would ease the clutch out and in that last inch of play the old air-cooled pancake motor would thrum us away in a coughing cloud of blue.  The Peace Chicken was an early 1970's VW bus, brick-red with bags of stale to moldy bagels piled so high  the rear-view mirror was useless. 

     The bagels were cast-offs we intended to give to the poor and hungry, although I do not know what we had against those people.  We would pile in the Chicken and attend meetings around town with other noble idealists, sweat running down our backs, into the cracks of our asses, puddling on the vinyl seats before dripping out the rusty holes in the floorboards.  Boxes of STOP GENOCIDE flyers mouldered in our laps waiting to bring people down as they ate pizza, or shopped for a Bob Marley poster in the student union at FSU.  For those who needed further explanation, we carried folders of color-copied photographs depicting children murdered in the streets, old women cooking grass soup, and city parks lined with tombstones and freshly dug graves.  This was our calling card. 

     That winter, the Peace Chicken carried two of our emissaries to a meeting in Washington D.C.
Prior to their departure we collectively worried over the Chicken.  Those with abilities changed oil, tightened throttle cables, and checked brake pads.  Those of us without lined the floor with blankets, made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches by the dozen and passed bottles of Dewar's around and watched the others work.  I have pictures from that trip north of the Peace Chicken coated in clear ice so thick they couldn't open the doors, the driver and passenger swaddled in sleeping bags as they rumbled up I-95 to join the voices for Bosnia, prosthetic stump socks on their heads to keep them warm.

Sometimes I think I see it around town. 

-Juancho





Happy Birthday

Mon, 06 May 2013 15:49:00 +0000


Today is my wife's birthday so I wrapped up my eye teeth in my last bottom dollar to give to her. 
She said, "Thanks, but that's really not necessary."  I said, "Oh, but it is." and ran across a bed of hot coals to get her a glass of ice water.  "Now you're just being silly," she told me as I rubbed my belly and patted my head while jumping up and down on one foot.  "No I'm not. I'm a serious person." I told her and I seriously love you and that is nothing to joke about."  She said, "What has two cheeks and is brown in the middle?" and I guessed a hamburger, which was the wrong answer.  

Last week she said, "Don't do anything special for my birthday." So I let the ice carving of Pegasus slowly melt out behind the shed.  I paid the chorus of 5 and 20 angels their travel per diem and apologized for putting them out unnecessarily.  "What can you do when your true love speaks, but what she requests?" the conductor angel shrugged.  "Indeed." and the 26 of us polished off the Scuppernong  pies I made for her, cooling on the window sill.  "Good pies!" the angels said and they penciled me in again for next year just in case.  

-Juancho



Listen

Thu, 02 May 2013 16:04:00 +0000

My right ear has been closed up tight for almost two weeks.  I think it is trying to protect me by prohibiting negativity from coming into it.  The doctor says it's an infection.  To each our own. I still have one good ear so that means I'm listening, but just barely.

A friend took a scary fall at the Santos trails down in Marion County, FL last week.  We got a pensive call from his girlfriend late at night with scant details.  I spent the next 24 hours pondering the possibility of his death, or permanent incapacitation either mentally or physically.
That's the kind of information my ear is trying to shield me from I think.

He tumped over from a small height onto his head and lay there unable to move or feel anything below the neck. "I think I broke my neck" is what he was reported to have said.  I know a bit about broken necks and a life without movement.  The thing nobody acknowledges is that it goes on.  My step-father is quadriplegic, as is a childhood friend from back in the day.  They live, they get things done.  They travel the third world and get drunk.  You say you would rather be dead, but you wouldn't.  We all persist. We accommodate.  We adapt.

For some minutes my friend must have lay there amid the crumbled limestone and pine needles and contemplated such a transition.  How will I earn a living?  How will I eat? How will I everything?  I imagine those minutes will become very important to him, much like my Crash of Great Clarity.  I can't recommend enough a terrifying accident or crisis when one needs to prioritize their values.

As feeling tingled back into his fingers and toes, and the paramedics loaded him up, was he making amends?  Counting his blessings?  Who knows?

All of that is personal between he and his moment. 

Juancho



Wobbly

Thu, 25 Apr 2013 13:55:00 +0000

Am I out of my groove because my inner ear is infected, or is my inner ear infected because I am out of my groove?  Either way, this record has been skipping in all the wrong spots. 

Time to make it right.  I got the antibiotics, but the rest of the prescription reads something like:

  • Acquire perfect summer theme song
  • Swim against the current
  • Consult the Angry Monk
  • 2 tblsp Turpentine
  • 1 bushel of barbed wire
  • 100 miles per week
I now welcome any and all non-binding, should-free advice from you- my crowd-sourced board of directors.

Thanks!

Juancho



Finding Charlie

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 17:29:00 +0000

Charlie the black Labrador disappeared in the storm on Sunday, a pouring down of buckets and crashing thunder that laid most of us down flat with the weight of the  falling pressure. It has been a run of the putrid touch lately, when my every effort to get it right turns up shit. It is a syndrome exacerbated by effort, churning more and more best intentions into disappointments, let-downs and failure.    "My aged black lab escaped my yard Sunday during the storms. He is black, about 100 pounds, and he has a difficult time getting around, so I'm not sure how he got further than the drive, but he is missing.  If anyone has seen him, please let me know.  He answers to Charlie, though usually only if he thinks food is involved."I read that message at my desk and thought about old Charlie.  Was he off on a rounder? Scarfing cat food off or porches and licking wrappers behind Vertigo burgers? Had someone taken him in, unable to find his people? Was Charlie alive?   I thought about that dog all day as I willed myself to not leave the building, my job, and my financial security behind.  Such a feat of strength by the hunger artist that goes unnoticed by his distracted audience. I exited the building to no applause, although I took my bow.  The social network was alight with erroneous sightings of Charlie, and one concrete piece of information, however ominous- "There is a black lab laying in the water in the Greenway by optimist park if anyone is missing a black lab it is alive but seems disoriented." I called Charlie's people, and she said that she had been up and down the greenway twice and saw nothing.  I felt the draw, the inexorable draw of adventure, redemption, yet another go at getting it right. I wanted to find Charlie, and I felt that I knew where he was.  Down into the greenway we went- my wife, my neighbor JJ, and our two intrepid search dogs, Summer Chanel (pictured) and Max the Australian Shepherd.  Find Charlie! we beseeched them and they did nothing of the sort.  The greenway is a lowland drainage, which in lesser neighborhoods would be separated from the community by a chainlink fence and no trespassing signs, but in idyllic Indianhead Acres, it hosts wild foxes, a beaver, a walking path and even in early spring, every mosquito on earth.  Our crew trundled down the long stairway into the covered, close air of the swamp.  I hung back, allowing myself to wander off the path and into the knee-deep marshy thicket.  I could see the basketball court, the nearby road, and hear the kids playing in the playground just a hundred yards away, but this was a wild place and I walked it the way a wild place must be walked.  I walked cautiously along a muddy rivulet invisible from the main path, obscured by thickets of grass. A black lab laying in the water, a black lab laying in the water, a black lab laying in the water, I whispered to myself as I walked and then I stopped-frozen with excitement, relief, and fear for the possible outcome.  There, neck-deep in the mud, were the sad and frightened eyes of a dog, alive.  I cried out something, and as I splashed towards him Melissa appeared above on the bank, her hand outstretched with a packet of food.  Charlie licked an inquiring tongue out to taste the food and then hungrily lapped it up from his prone position.  I called the owner and she was there, she could see us down below an[...]



On the River

Thu, 11 Apr 2013 14:07:00 +0000


My sweetheart wasn't gone 30 minutes before I found myself parked next to a dumpster eating a burrito in the van.  Three days of living alone was more than enough for the kitchen to become the garage again, with bikes stacked against the refrigerator and greasy rags  in the sink. It is hard to resist that late afternoon ennui that leads to drinking beer in your underwear on the back porch while plotting against that beast of an orange cat that haunts your own cat's dreams.  Where does that orange cat hide out?  I want to hit him where he lives when he least expects it, a barrage of green kumquats raining down on his tattered head.  He is as big as a five gallon bucket.

Oh well, nothing to do but plod on, resist the torporous daze and go for a ride.  With a rookie.  And crush him. Some things never fail to cheer me up.

My honey cruises through Dothan, her faithful dog presses her face to the stout 70 mph wind, while the rookie and I cool off at the local rope swing, a couple of old guys trying not to break an ankle.
An adolescent gator watches like a wallflower from 50 feet away, which seems like plenty of space when you are in the air, but a bit too close once you hit the water.

Juancho



Courage

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 15:06:00 +0000


More than once in my life I have said to myself, "That's it.  It is time to get serious about writing.'  I have canceled the cable, bought ink for the printer, and planted a bottle of scotch at 2' O'clock at my writing station.  Passport, Glenfiddich, Lagavulin,Laphroaig, Oban, Macallan, Highland Park, Dalwhinnie, and the ubiquitous Johnny Walker in all hues.

I have tried cigarettes as a writing aid also, and more important than the tobacco, is the right ashtray, it's proximity to a window, and the correct relative humidity to allow the smoke to wander slowly across the room lit in just the right fashion by the setting evening sun.

I have trusted a quilted flannel shirt from Wal-mart to be my muse, a broken alarm clock given to me by a friend-- set to the exact time of our parting for separate paths, a most profound and priceless gift.  Tuques, toboggans, stump socks, and watch caps have covered my balding to balded head as I courted inspiration at IBM Selectrics, Apple IIC's and E's, Brothers word processors lugged from month-to-month apartments in cities and towns, from mom's house to dad's.

I have scribbled on yellow legal pads and in so many incomplete journals I know that a 5x7 leather-bound is more of a non-fiction thing and a black 81/2 x 11 sketchbook is for poetry.  I have a wooden trunk from Haiti, intricately carved and deep enough for a body, full of incomplete stories and trying too hard.

I have at times plagiarized the voices of Henry Miller, Harry Crews, Stetson Kennedy, Tom Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Roald Dahl, Toni Morrison, and every other author I have read and admired.  Each of those words arrived on the page DOA,  flat cold things.

What I have learned from all of this is nothing.  Every trick and and totem is pointless.  The only thing I know is that it's like Robert Zimmerman said, all you need are three words and the truth.

I don't know.
I am afraid.
I could not.
I will try.
I was there.

--Juancho







El Merengue

Tue, 02 Apr 2013 19:10:00 +0000

At the risk of sounding overly noble-- sometimes I want to see my friends succeed so badly I can barely stand it, and when they do, it makes me hoarse with pride.  At the root, it is self-serving because by my logic if my friends are interesting and successful people, then perhaps I can feel the same about myself?

A sweat-polished Fender bass, near to a thousand gigs behind it- 995 of those gigs in the hands of his octagenarian father,  my friend pulls the beat from it while my own father sits in on guitar, the congalero is in a trance, he is also amigo to me, not this master musician.  A couple gets up to dance, they are amazing- no. They are incredible- as in it all seems staged and unreal.  The small, packed room cheers them and they move roller coaster hips in Converse All-Stars and high heels.  We are the hippest collection of gringos to ever watch them dance and we can't stand it, we all want more, and the band won't let them quit.   I see them talk with their eyes.  He says, "Tienes mas?"  She purses her lips, "Por favor chico, siempre!"  Finally the keyboard signals the break and the band, the dancers, and us, the audience, take a deep breath, a swig of wine, to see us through to the end.  This room has never seen this moment, and this moment is already gone, and the next one is passing. My hands sting from clapping and I want to carry all of them; band, father, friends, audience around the room on a chair and celebrate them, but instead I just smile, and clap and dance in my own chair.

Last night I thought of that evening as I rode a murderous lap around the trail, no joy in my heart, no sap in my legs, just knives and brass knuckles in my determined heart. I ran over a snake while racing the clock, which I believe must be a high sin.  I think it was not the killer, but the benign Lampropeltis elapsoides, the Scarlet King Snake, and he deserved better.

Let us rush in this life, but be in no hurry.

Juancho