I’m about halfway through Infite Jest, and enjoying it. That wasn’t always the case. The first three hundred pages were a struggle. Perhaps, that’s untrue. There were highlights, moments when I laughed, followed by passages when I was unsure how this section related or who the characters were. In the past six weeks I haven’t had much time to read the novel. When travelling, it’s not very convenient to lug around 900+ pages of prose with another 50 pages of endnotes.
I’ve also been trying to get my friends and family to read the book. Besides Wallace’s love for language, the book is funny. My best attempt to describe it has been to say that it touches on tennis, addiction, entertainment, politics, and absurdism. How those come together, you have to read for yourself.
Went for a lazy ride on Sunday. First one since the MS150. This is the map as well as I can remember.
<p>&amp;lt;a href=”http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/mo/st-louis/654125535630690488″&amp;gt;2009-10-12 Route&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;&amp;lt;br/&amp;gt;&amp;lt;a href=”http://www.mapmyride.com/find-ride/united-states/mo/st-louis”&amp;gt;Find more Bike Rides in St Louis, Missouri&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;</p>
It’s a Thursday morning and the sky is blotted out by layers of rain clouds. They are dense, nebulous, consuming. The streetlights are still on, their sensors fooled by the dark clouds and downpour. Water pounds the roof of my apartment. It spatters windows with a click and a tap, while I hunt through my apartment. Gortex boots, rainpants, raincoat, waterproof cycling bag, I’m set.
It doesn’t matter the day of the week or what the weather is doing, there comes a point when I love my commute. Almost to work, I cross a pedestrian bridge over Forest Park Parkway into campus. Traffic spills in both directions. Cars, people, annoyances packed together in start-stop frustration. I may be a little damp, it could be incoveniant to dress for weather, but I feel free. My feet move, my tires move, I propel forward two stories above the traditional commuters. At that moment upon the bridge, I don’t care about the money I’m saving, the carbon footprint I’ve reduced, the calories I’ve burned. At that moment, I breath deep, enjoy the pleasure of the ride, of being free from people looking caged and claustrophobic. At that moment, I feel the rain drip through my hair and patter on my jacket, and ride the last remaining leg unimpeded.
One hundred fifty miles on a bike seems like a long way to go. Looking at a map, I guess it is pretty far, the equivalent of biking from Lebanon to Columbia.
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The first day, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of my pace. I met up with the rest of the people on the Local Harvest Team or as I thought about us, Team Carrot, in the morning. We stayed together through the first rest stop, but then through large crowds of people I pushed hard up a hill. That initial burst got me going at a new pace, and I drifted between trains of riders. The weather was gorgeous. Sunny, 60’s and then 70’s. Not too windy. By the end of the first day, fatigue had set in some. I just wanted to be through with the ride.
The second day was much better. I’d slept more and ate better than the previous couple of days, so it seemed like I had more energy. Also, I knew I could do it for sure now since I completed the first day. Due to crazy travel plans (I had to fly out to Santa Barbara that night) I started the ride without Team Carrot at 7:00 a.m. The sun rose over fields of corn, and trees rising in clumps among the low hills. It was peaceful and relaxed. This time I only stopped twice. Once for lunch at 9:30 and then a quick break twenty miles later. I finished the ride at 11:40 a.m. and had a pace of over 17 mph. Initially, it hurt to get back on the bike, but my legs loosened up and I was rolling. The only thing that was strange were the moments of extreme isolation. There’d be miles where I saw no one. Just the road beneath my tires, listening to the thrum of the rubber over concrete. Birds dotted wires like weary observers having better things to do. The horizon stretched out. Sometimes it felt claustrophobic as walls of corn pushed close to the road and the sun rose higher. Thoughts devolved into thinking of cadence, of keeping my legs moving. Then as if being disturbed from a revery, a group of cyclists would power by me. Sometimes I would push and ride with them for a bit, but then fall off, alone. The last stretch was full of hills. They flowed down and I sat tucked tight on the bike, flying across the surface, when they pushed back up, I’d try to power my way on, keeping the gears where they were to get maximum distance.
The finish felt great. It was still early in the day, not yet noon. I packed up my bike, folded up the tent, and stowed the rest of the gear. A few hours later I was on board a flight bound for L.A. I’ll do it again next year, and I think you should too.
I’m sitting in a camp chair at the Boone County Fairgrounds, just outside Columbia, Missouri. The noise of cars sound in the distance, a mechanical drone next to the whir of crickets tucked among the high grass. It’s the kind of weather where you think, maybe I should put on a sweatshirt as the breeze flows over your skin. I’ve put one on. Also, among these noises are the sounds of people laughing and talking as they sit outside their tents, feet propped on a cooler, beer in hand. They’re happy sounds, content sounds, the ride is tomorrow so for now it’s all energy. After so many months in the city, it feels good to be out.
I’m not nervous about the ride anymore. There were some days when I wondered how it’d all play out. Now though, I’m here. There doesn’t need to be anything else. I look forward, somewhat guiltily, to hitting that point where I have no real thoughts. No worries for those I love, nor doubts about the future, only a physical demand to pedal, to go on. Pedal. That’s all there will be tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. Just riding, feeling the wind blow across my arms and face. The sun absorbing into my skin. The burn of muscles as they contract, push, pull, and repeat. Life will catch up later. This is just a brief respite. Soon enough, I’ll be back at a computer like the rest of you, inside, working or just wondering why your not out here, feeling the rush of a downhill ride and the patience for the next ascent.
— Mobile Post
Here are the maps for the ride. It’ll be a busy weekend!
Day 1 Route
Day 2 Route
As some of you may know I’ve been going to this boxing conditioning gym for the past two months. It’s been great! Today, I passed to the second level of workouts and thought I’d share the results. We do three sets of each activity, hit the heavy bag in between different exercises and take thirty second rests after each boxing round.
May 20, 2009
Half mile run: 3:47
Standing chest press: 10 lbs – 32, 22, 26
Sit ups: 36, 16, 12
Squats: 31, 37, 44
Pull downs: 31, 35, 23
Tricep push downs: 34, 23, 27
Bridges: 22, 34, 52
Chin up pull down: 41, 30, 39
DB shoulder press: 8 lbs – 40, 14, 8
August 19, 2009
Half mile run: 3:27
Standing chest press: 8 lbs – 52, 42, 44
Sit ups: 40, 40, 40
Squats: 62, 57, 58
Pull downs: 56, 55, 54
Tricep push downs: 47, 43, 43
Bridges: 77, 79, 98
Chin up pull down: 59, 58, 56
DB shoulder press: 8 lbs – 50, 43, 44
To pass to level 2 I had to get 40 reps for each set. 🙂
— Mobile Post
To be honest, I have no idea how I came across this book. Was it the title that caught my eye, or had I seen a friend mark it as “to read” online? Either way, I’m thrilled it passed into my life. The collection is full of beauty and delves into the worlds of blue collar life, masculinity, the ebb and flow of life in the Midwest. I find writing about poetry collections to be difficult. It’s a shotgun blast of poems and ideas, some of which are similar, but mostly they vary to a degree that it’s impossible to be general. Instead, I’ll point to some poems that stood out for me.
From “The Potato Eaters”
They unwrap the potatoes from the aluminum foil
with an odd delicacy, and I notice their still blackened hands
as they halve and butter them. The coffee sends up steam
like lathe smoke, and their bodies slowly relax
as they give themselves to the pleasure of the food
and the shop’s strange silence after hours of noise,
the clang of iron and the burst and hiss of the cutting torch.
From “Weather Report”
The divorcée coming from the laundromat
knows the cycles of laundry and despair:
back then, the towels they shared, but now a basket
filled with someone else’s underwear.
Wired tight on No Doz and coffee, I’ve cut iron
for two straight days and nights, and the white cowbird
drifting down the sun blurs through my rankled eyes
and the grease-smeared windows above my lathe. There,
toward the vanishing point where the cowbird dips
and hovers, is history: a ghost town, the least of all
It’s not laziness, there is effort
[Early draft – was captivated by the idea of stillness, or the inherent effort required to be still, both physically and mentally. Got sidetracked toward the end, but might be onto something interesting.]
in remaining still
legs not locked but loose
arms rested but ready, unconsciously
shifting weight, absorbing shocks
like a sailor out to sea, or a commuter
jostled over steel rails
with a pulse steady as the beat
before a dancer springs from a pose
steps into motion as eyes
track the action, movements link moments
fractions of time forgotten in the grace
of limbs pushing against gravity
a gentle geometry no more complex
than the heart’s cadence
at rest, the rise of lungs,
or pupils dilating with the dark
as an afterimage flares from retinas
translates the inverted into the language
of our bodies, a cascade of nerve signals
Though I’d pass along this write up about Jack Ridl. He’s an inspirational teacher, and along with Susan Atefat Peckham was a great mentor for me at Hope College.