I was asked by my good friend Dr Pamela Moss to submit my vision board that I created under her supervision to a transformational art show. Two long years ago myself and a dozen other people spread out a bunch of old magazines on a table and after a deep soulful meditation we looked through them and ripped out any pictures that called to us. We then spent another hour cutting out the pictures and gluing them on a posterboard. That ‘vision board’ has hung in my kitchen and I’ve looked at it every day for the the last two years. I mounted color changing LED lights around it and I setup a LED spotlight above it so it could have the brightest light in the room. This simple collection of pictures pasted together from magazines that people threw in the trash has completely transformed my life.
Every winter is the same scene played out again and again. The first snow falls and I head to Shingadin with my Mountain bike in tow to give the snow a whirl. I hike up to the top of Yellow 2 and start to ride. Everything is fine until I hit the snow. The tires bog down and get stuck and I’m left spinning the back wheel out trying to get any traction. Then I head back down the hill skidding all over the place, mostly out of control and pack my bike up and go home. I hang it up for the winter and just keep my XC skis in the car and do that for the 4 wintery blistery months of hell that is winter in Ithaca, NY.
Travelling to China about 10 years ago I was surprised and overwhelmed by the proliferation of electric bikes. It seemed like everyone everywhere owned an ebike. Hundreds of them would be lined up inside the super markets for consumers to impulse buy a new bike while they were busy with their morning grocery shopping. They were attractive looking and cheap, but most of them ran off lead acid batteries and in general were heavy and not that powerful. I toyed with the idea of importing them to the US to try to sell them here, but once I started to research the shipping costs and the weights I realized it was pretty impractical.
Over the last 10 years batteries have gotten much, much cheaper and far more powerful. There is a new explosion of interest in electric bikes in the US as people look towards reasonable solutions to deal with the escalating costs of owning a car as well as all the time wasted stuck in city traffic. The traffic in Ithaca has gotten particularly bad on Rt 13 and often seems backed up for miles all the way to Stewart Park. The traffic and lack of parking in town was starting to drive me totally batty.
A new store opened up in town called Boxy Bikes owned by my friend Larry Clarkburg that specialized in selling ebikes. I swung by and tried out a used Giant Twist ebike he had for sale and I instantly fell in love. It was a love affair that would interfere dramatically will my sex life and anything else I would want to do for the next several months. I jokingly thanked Larry for destroying my life every time I saw him. The first time I used my electric bike in town I was amazed at how quickly I could get from one place to another. No more waiting for traffic, no more driving around looking for free parking, I could arrive right at the doorstep of the customer site and had a lot of extra time to spare. The best part was that I was no longer isolated in my car in an artificial environment that separated me from people on the street. People I knew would wave hello, I felt like part of the community instead of an outsider just driving through.
This was just the beginning, I had bought one ebike from Larry, but I started spending countless hours on the online ebike forums reading mods people had made and crazy ebikes that would use tens or hundreds of thousands of watts. An entire community of people were on the cutting edge of ebike development, and they were all doing it in their garage. I had stumbled on the golden age of ebikes and I was hooked. I would stay up till odd hours in the morning trying to learn everything I could and then I would wakeup at 5:00 AM and start in again on the forums. It became a complete and all-consuming obsession.
70,000 people came and went where none were before. A place so barren it is without insects, and yet I saw a hawk swooping through our camp at dusk.
Black Rock City. A place like no other on earth. You have either been there and know it, or you are an outsider. There is no in between.
There is no place I feel more alive, more insane, more in touch with the emptiness inside my own soul. That personal struggle to add meaning to an intrinsically meaningless life.
I didn’t want to go, but I had already bought a ticket and a plane ride, there was no turning back. Doug and I planned for months to build a giant 22 foot walking puppet bug we were going to stride across the playa with. I knew it would be a nightmare building it there, it always is. I knew the wind would make our lives miserable as we tried to cart around this giant creation. Last year I built a 43 foot tall puppet man and moved it around with 6 others on guide wires. I swore never again, but here I was building this bug in the middle of nowhere, right back at it again.
It’s so rare in life that everything goes your way. So often we spend our days battling with entropy as our world seems to stay in a perpetual state of near disasters. It’s rare that everything goes right, and even rarer that this happens on the day that you commit yourself to another. Nature has always been my religion, the place I go to find peace and solace. It seemed fitting that Thilde and I would say our vows to each other in the middle of the body of water I had grown to love the most, Cayuga Lake.
The sound of over a hundred kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards bumping together as the waves rolled by. We hadn’t rehearsed the words we were going to say, but that was fine because life wasn’t meant to be rehearsed. I was lucky enough to choose to be with a woman who cared little for words anyway. Thilde was a woman who cherished actions and affection over words. We had made it this far, and convinced 150 people to gather themselves together in the middle of Cayuga Lake for a most unconventional ceremony to celebrate our love.
The hospital is the same as always, fear, trepidation. Will the insurance company really pay? Sometimes it feels like they should just collect $1000 in cash from you at the front door. Wegmans is cheaper, I can usually get out of there for less than $100. This place is different. We sit in the waiting-room full of people. The all seem content with waiting, like they have been there before and they will come there again.
Lying to the nurses, trying to act like we don’t react to the sickly smell of the cleaning products. We ask her to move the Janitor cart away from the door. She is hooking up an IV. We stop her an ask how long the saline has been in the plastic bag. She looks as us like we are aliens from another planet and clearly does not know what to say. We politely decline the IV and ask for water. We get a cup but are told to drink only a few sips.
Tug Hill Kite Festival 2014 was the best day of snow kiting in my entire life. I had made plans to spend the weekend at The Flurry Festival, a 3 day dance festival in Saratoga Springs, but I decided to cancel at the last-minute because of an impending snowstorm. Instead I packed the van with 6 kites, 2 Snowboards, 3 pairs of Micro skis, XC skis, Ski, XC and snowboard boots, some food, my portable heater and camping gear and a couple sleeping bags and started on my personal Mecca to Tug Hill, the promised land for snowkiting.
Every morning I wake up and lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Before I get up and start my day I close my eyes and I say a prayer. I don’t pray to any deity or higher power. My prayer is to myself. I pray to be the best father, lover, friend, son and computer consultant I can be. It feels like I am asking myself to be better. I feel like asking the same thing of myself day after day actually helps me to be the thing I am trying to be.
For the last year I have been in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful woman. She really is everything I want in a partner, patient, funny, caring and most importantly she laughs at my bad jokes. When I get low blood sugar and start yelling and acting like an ass, she carefully stops what we are doing and prepares some food. We met at Ecstatic dance and dancing has been a very big part of our relationship. We work well together and whether we are editing her book for months on end or putting up a ceiling on her cabin it seems like we work quite well together. At least as well as anyone could possibly be expected to be working with me. It’s strange to look at yourself and be acutely away of how impossible you are to deal with.
We’ve all grown frighteningly accustomed to proving to our personal computers that we are not a robot. Every time we fill out a web form or accidentally forget our webmail password a little box shows up with a series of letters and numbers that are increasingly difficult to read. As the years have flown by, the secret codes have gotten childishly easy to read to completely and utterly indecipherable. For a brief moment I often doubt myself “Is this really what this program is expecting me to type”. If I was any more unreasonable of a man I might even have lingering doubts about whether I might be a robot myself.
So how did we get to this place where people write programs to test other people to see if they are programs? Everyone knows it’s to protect us from spammers and hackers. It’s those ‘really smart computer nerds’ that are keeping those other ‘really Bad (with a capital B) computer nerds’ at bay. So we go to bed at night feelings safe. But so much of it is like watching our grandma getting felt up by TSA security at the airport. It’s all about the illusion of safety, sadly you and I are often not even protected from the people who are supposed to protect us.
Google used their Google Maps cars to drive around neighborhoods automatically logging into people’s unsecured wi-fi and collecting personal information on their computers all over the world. They were fined paltry sums by many government agencies and they apologized profusely but this was the first time something like this was done on a wide scale. I’ve slowly moved most of my digital life into the cloud. At this point most of the virtual information I care about is stored somewhere other than my personal computer.
As the 8′ high waves came and crashed on my head the only thing I could think was “Get back in your kayak and get out of here or you will die”. I frantically splashed around in the water while the most powerful current I had ever experienced thrashed me around uncontrollably. The boat hit me in the face giving me a black eye, I tried time and again to get myself into the swamped sea kayak and roll it up but to no avail. Eventually I gave up and grabbed my 500lb sea kayak filled with water and started swimming toward the vacant beach.