Tuesday, March 29, 2016

12 Stations of Cross

In Nomine Patris

This past Friday on Good Friday. Four of us got together for a little improv theater/art camp on two wheels. It is weird how sometimes art and theater just happen almost by accident. New England is weird. We get lots of weird holidays off. No disrespect but it is what it is. So when I saw the kids had Good Friday off from school and I knew a few of my friends likely had work off I sent out an email inviting people on an Unholy CX ride. That was it really. Certainly what unfolded was never discussed. I still don't know how it happened to be honest. What did happen was pure genius. I like to think it was inspired by Thom in a way. He and I have been talking a bit about social media and cycling and how its really a performance. Again, its hard to find the proper term for it. Performing art is really the best descriptive. What we do on twitter and instagram is for entertainment. A type of art. Johnny Utah has been the embodiment of this for as long as I have known him. Its why he is so fun to be around. It takes this whole "cycling is deadly serious" idea and smashes it to pieces. And that attitude in cycling deserves to be smashed to pieces over and over again until all that is left is radness. And fun.

He shoulders His Burden
Good Friday turned out to be an aptly nasty day. 40 degrees and raining. At times pouring rain. The weather gods lied about it warming up as the day went on. A few of us paid dearly for it. The crew ended up being Michele, Ed, Utah and myself. A great crew by any measure. While we were getting the bikes ready to roll the concept of doing the 12 Stations of Cross came up. Michele took the idea and ran with it. She took over my social media for the day and became equal parts art director/photographer for the ride/performance. Ed and Utah were 100% all in. Ed came up with some awesome photo staging. And Utah played the role of Cross Jesus. A roll he has played before. He bounces between Johnny Utah and Cross Jesus pretty fluidly during CX season. It become a running dialogue on our rides and at CX races. It was a big part of what inspired this performance.

He falls for the first time
The ride itself was hilarious. Again pouring rain, cold. Nasty wet roots and rocks. All of us laughing our asses off. No one complaining. Even poor Ed who was underdressed and frankly looked like he was getting hypothermia at times was pure Ed. Strong as hell. Funny. Up for anything. He is one the greatest guys to ride with I know. Or hang out with for that matter. Michele was definitely the genius behind this. She is a great photographer. Each photo was perfect.

He meets His Mother
The ride part was one I have been wanting to share with them for a while. Doing it within the context of the 12 Stations of the Cross made it that much more fun. We would talk about the next Station and I would be like "oh yeah, the cemetery stairs would be perfect!" and we would ride to the spot and set up and shoot and move on. For a ride that involved more photos than miles we moved pretty quickly. We only had one flat. One. Zero crashes. Zero mechanicals. Zero breakdowns. Everyone was in such good moods. I like friends who smile in the face of adversity. It is the only way.

Simon shoulders His Burden
The most challenging photo was probably "He meets the Women of Jerusalem" I knew the perfect spot. The Starbucks in Midfield of course. But Midfield is sort of a nice town. Not like douchey Wellesley or Dover. The people are actually really nice who live there. But its a nice suburb. So when four strangers roll in soaked to the bone with maniacal grins on their faces people sort of move away. We got the shot. And hung out for hot coffee and snacks. We stole some newspapers and stuffed them up our shirts to stave off the hypothermia.

Veronica wipes His Face
Rolling back we were already thinking of the last couple of Stations. He is stripped of his garments was pretty hilarious. Utah was 100% game. It was actually a challenge getting him to keep his clothes ON. Thankfully Michele kept it pro and just shot from the chest up. It is one of the more beautiful photos of the whole set.

He fall for the second time

He falls for the second time was like a flash back to the time Aumiller crashed off a wood bridge in Cutler and called me from the marsh. How I ever found him is beyond me. So glad I took that call. The trolls certainly would have feasted on his bones if we didn't find him and drag him to safety.

He meets the women of Jerusalem 
The whole ride became a meditative one in which we spent the day as friends in the woods and just having a blast. When we finally got home we pretty much ate all the food in the house. My wife and kids were troopers about the whole thing. This isn't their first rodeo as they say. They are used to dirty, bleeding bikers showing up at the house and eating everything in sight like a wolf pack.

He falls for the third time
I feel lucky my kids are exposed to adults like my friends who never stop being rad. They see that life isn't just about the system. Its about living it to the fullest. Art matters. The outdoors matter. Being rad matters.

He is stripped of His Garments

One of the more entertaining aspects of the whole day was all the funny texts and messages we all received during the ride. Most were of the "you are all going to burn in Hell" variety. Most were like "this is the best thing ever!" It fueled us on I won't lie. For me social media is just a conversation. A way to engage your friends in ways you just can't do when everyone is living their lives and busy.

He is nailed to the Cross
HUGE thanks to Michele, Ed and Utah! What a fantastic day. To say we are ready for the Ronde is an understatement. Being out all day in nasty weather and moving like sharks builds character. And is what is required of any rider who loves these types of rides. Live rad my friends.

He dies

Monday, March 14, 2016


Ok life isn't just about bikes. Life is bigger that that. This here blog and all my social media is basically a diary. A hot wide open mess of my life. Syd the kid is a HUGE part of my life. I will spare you the details but let's say there is no doubt we wanted a second child. It was not easy. Lots of heartbreak. But we got our Syd the kid. A miniature version of my wife Pam. We moved to Boston when Pam was six months pregnant with Syd. Our Dr out west thought we were insane. We were like dude? Chill. Boston. I hear they have really good Drs. It worked out. Syd came into our lives and changed everything. Syd the kid fell in love with ice hockey watching the Sochi Olympics. She had watched the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. I am a big hockey and Bruins fan. I grew up with Hockey. I have a HUGE hockey family. Not your Ivy league hockey family. A blue collar grinding hockey family. But when I moved to Norcal that part of me was put in a box. Sure I followed it. Took on the Sharks as my team away from my hometown team.  But it wasn't a big part of our lives. Until the Sochi games.

That changed everything. Syd was 10. She told me she wanted to play hockey. Your kids ask for lots of things. It is like white noise. You tune it out. Then the low hum becomes a loud siren and you pay attention. Syd's friend Mina was a goalie. I emailed Mina's mom. She sent me a great email. Again, I played hockey. I know what is required. I hate to use the words "its too late" with anything in life as you only have one life. And you are talking about a 10 year old. But. Hockey in the Northeast and in a town like Needham is no joke. I went through that meat grinder. I broke bones. I got hurt. A lot. Was a tiny defenseman. But played with a dude who was a brute. He ended up being drafted by the Hartford Whalers. Went to the Olympics. Left high school his junior year. Yeah hockey is no joke. So when she said "I want to play hockey" It was equal parts pride and equal parts PTSD nightmare. But if there is one thing living through that gives you is perspective. Lots has changed. We live in a much more nurturing world. That world does not exist at the rink perse but the tools we have learned outside can be applied.

So I got busy. I found beginning hockey camps. I found skating lessons. I found a great league. The one I played in. Walking into St Sebs after being so far removed was surreal. But I played the game. Syd is a beast. She is tougher than any other human being I know. Our (and I know some parents cringe at that but it is what hockey is about) journey hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows. The hockey itself was fine. She struggled but she kept grinding. Not starting to skate let alone play hockey until age 10 when most kids start skating at 3 or 4 and playing hockey at 6 is a HUGE disadvantage. But she battled. But we had a pretty huge set back the first summer. She was at Babson doing her beginner to hockey program when she looked funny. Her instructor started skating her off the ice. I knew something was wrong. A parent knows. I ran to the boards and to the door. She collapsed at the blue line. I ran out onto the ice. She looked at me and said she couldn't feel her legs. I picked her up and carried her off the ice. For bonus points my mom was there. Yeah. Awesome. I got her a gatorade. Then got her to the ER. She was fine. Just dehydration. But it set in motion a crazy year. Sending her back on the ice after that I felt equal parts horror and pride. Keep grinding. It is what hockey is about. You think those PROs are tough just because they are paid well? No. It starts early. Hockey players do not quit. Ever.

So we somehow survive that. She does great in a developmental team full of boys. She has one other girl on her team. Its half ice. No one keeps score. Other than the kids. She loves it. We get to the tryouts for the U12 girls team. The week before during practice she trips on a puck and crumbles on the ice. I am 100% sure she just broke her collar bone. Back to the ER. No break "just" a separation. We are talking about a 10 year old girl. Again. Kid doesn't blink. Talking to the ER Dr about books. IVs in. Doesn't flinch. We get home. Tryout is in a week. Her coach tells me she doesn't stand a chance of making the team. The girls director welcomes me with open arms. Don't worry she will do great. Instantly I see the difference between a girls team and a coed team. The girls are all business. They support each other in the line. If someone doesn't get the drill they explain it to the next girl. No punching. No tripping. Syd's first drill is against an older girl. Coach dumps the puck in a corner. Go get it. Syd goes in fast. Goes for the other girls body. Other girl is way faster and slides out. Syd goes full speed into the boards with her separated shoulder. Doesn't flinch. Survives the tryout. Makes the team.

Have I mentioned she is 5'6" and 120 and is 11? And is slower than all the other girls? But she is smart. Has so little hockey knowledge. But gets it. And has so little skating experience. We luck into a skating coach who meets us at Babson before school once a week. He is incredible. Works so patiently with her. Hockey is all about skill, experience and heart. Its so different than all other sports. Not just in my opinion but as a statement of fact.  It is the ultimate team game. Lots of sports can be influenced by one great player. Basketball can be dictated by one great player. Look at Jordan. Look what Stephen Curry did for the Warriors. Hockey is all about team work. The individual (unless you are a goalie) is only as good as the team. And even a great goalie can be neutralized by a better team. Its what makes hockey great. Hockey is also very unique in the fact it is a family sport. You have to drive your kid to the rink at 5 or 6 am. You sit in the rink or car and wait. You travel to tournaments. You bond as a family. Hockey itself can become one large family. Its why you don't see NHL players showing up in the police blotter like NFL and NBA players.

But this is about Syd. So you get the idea. It has been an intense journey with lots of hard work. But the reward is immeasurable. Syd looked at me the other day and said "Dad, I get the idea you are training me to be a Samurai not a hockey player." This is in fact a true statement. In Japan there were many paths to enlightenment—Flower arrangement, Brush painting, Archery and Sword fighting. Which way you chose was meaningless. It was the practice that mattered. Hockey has been a life saver for Syd. She has struggled with depression and anxiety. There have been some dark days. But hockey and her teammates have helped her so much. She is literally a different person since she started playing hockey. I am not a sports dad. I am not living out some unfulfilled Glory Days. What I am doing is fighting for my kids soul. She asked me as we were driving home from a tournament if she didn't make a college hockey team would she still go to college. I told her of course. We have a college fund. Who knows what will happen. Hockey and college aren't linked like that. We worry about the present not the future.   You can be what ever you want to be. Right now she wants to be a lawyer. And maybe a novelist. Ideally she is the next James Dashner only a woman obviously.

When I watch Syd play hockey it feels like CX used to feel. It is the same heart pounding rush I used to get while sitting at the line waiting for the whistle to blow. Some of her best games have been the games she has lost. I tell her that every time. She loves hockey. She loves her teammates. I am not saying it will protect her from mean girls or bad things that may happen. But when you roll with a  crew of badass girl hockey players you have a family that has your back. These girls battle for each other. They are friends on and off the ice. The parents are tight. I have zero non-cycling adult friends. This is all new to me too. And I like it. Sitting in a room of coaches and adults drinking bad beer and listening to 80s music I think to myself this is pretty ok. I couldn't be more proud of Syd and what she has accomplished. I wish Hockey season never had to end.