Monday, July 30, 2007

Serendipity Supremo

Sometimes things work out much better than you could ever imagine—serendipity supremo. I’m cycling through Kaysville today coming back from a short yet fairly intense 30 miler. I’m at about mile 27 and it’s 100 degrees. Before my ride I spent 10 hrs in the sun at Lagoon—I’m wasted, very ready to be home. As I come up to a 4-way stop I slow down as a big truck pulls up to the side of me. A young male leans out of the window, “Hey asshole get on the sidewalk.”

It’s too much. I just can’t leave it alone. I look right back at him, my 130 pound ectomorph body glistening with sweat, “What did you say?” For a split second, seeming like minutes, I’m not sure what to do next. Then from somewhere, “Do you want to make something of this?” Shit, did I just actually say that? Luckily I’m saved by the one thing you could never hope for, could never imagine, could never even dream of…as I edge ahead of the truck, a Davis County Sherriff appears above their hood stopped on the other side of the 4-way. Without pause, as if planned, I point to the Sheriff, “Do you want to take this up with him?”

The sheriff turns his lights on and pulls the truck over. I recount what happened; he has me wait by his truck.

He returns, “Just a bunch of dumbass kids.”
“I figured. It’s just everyone seems to take pot shots at us ya know.”
“I’ll chew ‘em out good” he says fingering the two driver’s licenses his holding.

The adrenalin carries me at 24 mph all the way home.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm out of the Tour

Last night after an amazing, non-chemically enhanced mountain bike ride down the “Bobsled” above the U of U, I returned home late and tired. Instead of getting to bed like I should have, I stayed up watching 5 hrs of Tour coverage. For the 3rd time Rasmussen battled with both Contador and Leipheimer on the steep climbs of the Pyrenees. They threw everything at him—accelerations, team tactics, stare downs—and he still crossed the finish line first.

Can you imagine my surprise this morning when I turned on the Tour and did a double take when I didn’t see the little yellow jersey symbol indicating that the yellow jersey rider was in the peloton. Today is a flat stage near the end of the Tour—if the yellow jersey is not in the peloton then something disastrous has occurred. Sure enough, his team had sent him packing for saying he was in Mexico climbing when he was actually in Italy (where there are many drug docs) and missing several out-of-competition drug tests.

I was crushed. Hadn’t we all experienced this with Floyd Landis last year? It couldn’t, just couldn’t, be happening again.

Still I can’t be well up in ire at the individual cyclists because a huge portion of the blame must be accorded to the cycling organizations, teams, and sponsors who, for years, turned a blind eye on this problem as they lined their pockets with money. Nor can I self-righteously condemn them as cheats as I, in the same situation—wary that most, many or even just some of my main competitors were using drugs--would “cheat” too. In fact when training and failing to ever complete the Wasatch 100 which meant nothing in terms of livelihood or stardom, I routinely used oral steroids (prednisone) to fight inflammation. Not the same as anabolic steroids but still there is risk and it “unfairly” advantaged me.

And how about the Tour announcers (Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwin, Bob Roll, and Al Trautwig) who, this morning, began to speculate on who is clean in the Tour. What a farce! No one knows if anyone is clean. Instead of sticking to that line they began to suggest certain riders, the Canadian Cadel Evans, have looked like they have suffered on the climbs therefore they must be clean. Great, so anyone who doesn’t look like they are suffering in sports is dirty and those who stumble along are clean. Doesn’t that destroy the very wonder of sports? To see a Jordan effortlessly flying both horizontally and vertically? To witness Lance Armstrong, yet again, destroy everyone on the climb?

Now I participate as a fan and athlete in a tarnished sport, yet somehow baseball and football keep moving along, doping scandals a mere speed bump towards the cash. Of course baseball has certainly cleaned up its act. Just look how tough they’ve gotten: a 6 game suspension! Over the long haul maybe cycling will be revered as the sport who first took drug doping seriously. Or maybe it will just keep going on and on underground through newer and better synthetics.

All I ask in the meantime is that someone explain to my 12 year old son why I was up at 1am last night hooting and jumping around like a mad man as Rasmussen pulled away from Contador and Leipheimer and now that same Rasmussen is basically a criminal no longer in the race, his performance and my joy a figment of our imagination

Saturday, July 14, 2007


The traditions of July are in full swing, a time when I can change up the pace a bit.

I upgraded my cable, as I've done the last three years, so I can watch each stage of the Tour de France; today was the first mountain stage, a steep category II climb in the Alps. A young German took the stage and the yellow jersey but tomorrow the real GC (general classification contenders) will probably take back the time he got today. Still, there's no apparent favorite which is exciting, for a change, after seven years of Lance domination and the Landis debacle. I picked yellow beans yesterday and today; today I searched out the first few early beans in barefeet, the dirt and beans working my visceral nerves. In addition to beans we ate delicious summer meal: spinach salad with bacon and homemade red onion dressing and chilled shrimp. On Thursday my six year old Andrew and I rode our bikes five miles to the dentist for our check-up, then ate at Jake's over the top--must dirty up those clean teeth as quickly as possible. Today, Seth (my oldest) and I searched the stacks of on sale shoes at our local Striders (a great privately owned running store btw) and then ate at a great little Thai place next door. Finally, I did 25 miles on the bike yesterday in 100 degree heat--it was great to clean out the old pores. As a bonus I caught last week's This American Life and listened to "Not ready to make nice" by the Dixie Chicks for like the 50th time. Each time I get a charge from "It's a sad sad story that a mother will teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger. And how in the world can the words that I said, send somebody so over the edge, that they'd write me a letter, saying that I better shut up and sing, or my life will be over." If that doesn't get you up over a hill, nothing will.

So the summer goes. Even in the heat it feels quite refreshing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kitschy Kitty

There is a little kitty biting my toes under my desk. While I'm not much of an animal lover and I basically think it's unethical to intentionally allow your cat to get pregnant or impregnate (I'm not sexist) another cat, little kitties are amazingly cute and curious.

To be fair to me, it was my daughter's idea and how could I deny her?

Or his face? (a close 2nd in pleading for a kitty)

It's a beautiful kitty, you have to admit.

Once we took it home, it took to my son's favorite stuffed animal (Rabbi); in fact she tried to nurse from Rabbi.

From God to kitschy little kitties. Evolutionary predisposition binds believer and non-believer together whether they can agree on anything else or not.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A-dios God

Note: if you are a believer and sensitive of heart, please do not read this post; if you are a believer and read it, please do not think I'm judging you anymore than you are judging me when you express your beliefs in God or prophets or eternal life or the resurrection or the Bible.

I'm done with GOD; it's over or at least I'd like it to be over. I think I want to rewrite that great Simon and Garfunkel song "there must be 50 ways to leave your lover" (my ex-girlfriend played this song the first time we made out after my LDS mission--I'm confident she relished the irony knowing she'd dump me soon; still after-two-years of nothing, the make-out was tremendously delicious). I'm not a lyricist so I won't try anything silly, but the sense that you better "make new a plan" that you'll have to "get out the back" and "not discuss much" makes a lot of sense. God is a jealous lover. While I don't regret believing in "God" for about twenty years, it's damn hard to get out of the whole gawd damn GOD system. It seems human's conceptions of God, if you go down that road, seep into every crack of life: prayer in the morning, before bed and every meal, during a difficult time, connections to loved ones, marriage vows, THE reason for living, THE reason for doing good, ALL explanations of how we got here and where we will go after... It's an endless list of comfort thoughts.

I went on a couple hour bike ride through the potato fields of Rexburg, ID this past week. While riding I was listening to a Terry Gross interview with Phillip Roth. As they discussed his new novel Everyman, which is about the lonely deterioration and final death of a man who does not have religion, Terry seemed determined to raise questions about religion and belief. She asked Roth if he ever had the desire to believe in something (she knew he wasn't "religious"), he countered, "I've never desired delusion." Even when you were young, Gross pushed, "never." A powerful moment for me, a building of my new philosophy of life and death. As Richard Dawkins put it in The God Delusion one of the worst effects of religion is that "it teaches us that it is a virture to be satisfied with not understanding." Oh, the places one can go without the self-limiting baggage of religion. Not that these places or ideas will make one happier (Shaw said "the fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is not more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one"). I have a stirring desire to face life for what it is: 70 or so years (probably) with my family, friends, an amazing wonder which will then END, fading into the memory of those who knew me. I want to hold up my head and proclaim: I'm going to face this mother fucker head on, doing my best because that's what you do and that's it. I

Of course this isn't much different than I felt while "believing" in God as I was never too comfortable with the "rewards in heaven" speech. I just never understood, starting with that old girlfriend I mentioned and many others, who have told me they would live differently if they didn't believe in God and the consequences which follow. Several have told me they'd drink a lot, try drugs, have sex, cheat--what a strange way to live life. I mean if you want to do those things, do them, enjoy them and try not to hurt anyone, but to live your entire life being "good" because you hold a belief, one without any physical proof, that you will get a reward for being good... what a waste. Of course I know there are many religious people who, like me over the last twenty years, have a more existential, non-mathmatical view of it all. And even those who profess this type of do-good-now-for-rewards-lataer, wouldn't, I think, actually go do all those crazy things if they didn't believe in God. Which leads me to a mistake I think many religious folks make, including me on occasion.

We create a causal link between a person's disaffection with religion and their "bad" decisions. First, there's a huge evaluative judgment here--drinking, for example, is just fine and moral for many people though many Moromons would blame this "sin" on the someone's inactivity. But let's assume it is a real "bad" decision like a vicious and selfish divorce. Now, we can say, "Yep, if only he'd stayed active, but it was all downhill after he stopped going to church." Of course this kind of causal argument can easily be dismissed: there could have been any number of other essential factors like depression, a terrible wife, work stress, etc. But again let's assume that the mean-spirited divorce wouldn't have occured if the man had continued as an active church member. Yet again this is faulty reasoning because the idea of being active or inactive, going to church to prove one's worth etc., is a social construction which sets up real feelings and consequences in this life whether the religion is based in an real truth or not. Therefore the man who makes the bad decision could easily, conscious or not, be applying the rules of the constructed religion even as he moves away from it: "Because I'm no longer religious, I'm a bad person and will now act accordingly or at least have the leeway to do so." The very beliefs believers profess would have saved the man work against him in the negative.

There's some tough talk here, but in reality I'm quite nervous about proclaiming my new philosophy. I'm reminded of the Spanish film I watched several years ago, La Lengua de Las Mariposas (Butterfly in English), where a young boy, Moncho, develops an affection for his teacher, Don Gregorio, who teaches them about the amazing natural world around them. The film ends with Moncho angrily yelling, though probably feigning, with the rest of the town, "Ateo... ateo" (atheist) as they take Don Gregario away in chains, the now revealed communist. We sure hate godlessness. I hadn't heard the spanish word "ateo" for years until this past week. A man and a woman, speaking in spanish, were walking by our home looking for a "buton" (button) she'd lost. I interrupted my game of catch with my son to talk with them. Turned out he knew my mission president who presided over me in Spain. As we talked they, naively, assumed I was true blue believer. As we discussed Spain, he talked about how his cousin had dated several men from Spain and you know what, he pejoritively with much self-righteousness declared, "Alla todos son ateos." I was dumbstruck, finally mumbling something about how many of the Spanish people had struggled with corrupt "curas" (priests) which of course he agreed with, confirming his belief in the one and only true LDS faith. I considered clarifying my view but knew it wasn't worth it and would be difficult at best in spanish. Right then I realized with clarity that I too am some sort of "ateo" and all the terrible things that go along with it. Maybe it was so powerful because I was hearing the word in spanish, the langauge I had used to testify against godlessness during my mission.

As we figure out how to fully include gays and lesbians into the communal fabric of the US, we better start working on ateos, those godless sons of bitches. And this isn't merely pity party for atheists: it has immediate real impact at the highest levels. Tim Weiner, a NY Times reporter, in an interview again with Terry Gross, tells how President Eisenhower told the CIA to "inspire Jihad against the godless communists" in any way possible. This led to much arms and money, arms and money that are now used to fight against godless capitalism in the US, the most religious developed country in the world. What a waste of resources. And to think we will elect a president if he proclaims a belief in God, but we will not even seriously consider an impeachment process when it's clear his government created false accusations as the basis for a war which has killed tens of thousands; yet can you imagine any serious presidential candidate making it for a minute as an atheist or even agnostic? Not a chance. Much better to believe in God and then repent of laisons with mistresses, denunciations of blacks and gays, shady million dollar book deals, or any number of lies and atrocities.