My Mother, Jill Marie Thibodeau, died on November 23rd, 2013 of kidney cancer at the age of 57. She was diagnosed in late July, had major surgery in September, and passed in November. This is a recording I made last week of the eulogy I wrote for her in December of 2013.
Originally this show was recorded as a conversation between my brother Adam and I about our Mother and our lives growing up, but there were some fuck ups in the recording process and the sound quality isn’t appropriate for the podcast.
Knowing that this episode would release on Thanksgiving, I thought I would do something a bit different this time around and build a piece around some work my friend Erika (Episode 002) and I did back in August around the homeless situation in the Santa Ana River Trail, a local bike path I ride frequently. It’s here where my personal passion for cycling collides with my social justice passion and career focus on ending homelessness.
It’s a brutally hot day in mid-August, so we go for a bike ride and discuss the general explosion in the homeless population numbers along SART, meet and talk to several of the people living there, consult local citizens that see it as they fly by on their bikes, and a meet with a faith-based group that comes out to feed the homeless community every Sunday.
Erika’s work on this piece is really good, so I will let it speak for itself.
David “Fairbrook” Layden, good friend and a man I truly, dearly appreciate, steps into my sweltering garage for the October episode of “Three and Two and One” and we discuss depression, Jazz, books, and whatever else comes to mind, mostly mental health. David is truly one of my favorite people. He’s a really good guy and I am so grateful that he was willing and able to come on to the show and chat with me.
Oh, did I mention I’m racing the shit out of some cyclocross this year? (Full disclosure: “racing” is subjective and it’s done in the 4th category, the slowest possible)
First, the history piece. At the end of 2011 I picked up one of my Dad’s old bike frames from his days of touring and racing and converted it into a malfunctioning single speed. Despite coming from a family that was semi-cycling obsessed when I was very young, I hadn’t ridden a bike with any seriousness since the late 90s (mountain) and I hadn’t been on the road since the early 90s.
In early 2012 I got a proper bike, again, and started riding. A lot. It was shortly after that that I decided what I really wanted to do was start racing ‘cross. I bought myself a very inexpensive Blue, and built it up around Christmas in 2012, too late to do any races that year, but I started to practice and learn some things in anticipation for 2013. I remember practicing on Valentine’s Day.
My Mom got sick in July of 2013, but I thought learning to race and racing might bring me some much needed distraction. It didn’t really work out that way. Sometime in late August or early September I went to an organized practice by our local race promoter/coordinator. It went ok, but I was still wildly inexperience and not in cyclocross shape by any stretch of the imagination. On the way home, I drove through a Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru for a Diet Dr. Pepper, and ripped my bike off the roof of my car. I was calm at the time but inside, with everything going on, I was melting down. I wrote off the season. More practices and practice races, but no real races. My Mom had her massive surgery in mid-September and passed away in November, never recovering, and I was coaching Soccer for my Son at the time and struggling at work and home. No time for anything else, but it’s fine. Priorities.
I made racing cross a priority in 2014. I did a handful of races and finished last or close to last in each. I was ok with it. I got lapped every single race by the front half of the field. Nonetheless I had fun and I knew it was about learning how to actually race, but I wanted to get better. Badly.
So, this year. I resolved to lose weight and just get better at this damn sport. As of the first race of the year, today, I am down 30-35 pounds since the last race of 2014. My riding on the road has improved, but I had fully planned to practice skills much more and do more work on intervals etc. I’ve been running and that has been improving and has helped a lot. However, I really should have been doing more cross-specific practice and training. I also, thanks to two awesome friends I have made in Washington DC, Jon and Travis, I was able to join a really, really cool team who do a lot for cross locally on the Mid-atlantic seaboard, Crosshairs Cycling.
Today, I raced. The first of 2015 at Verdugo Park in Glendale. I sucked, and I DNF’d.
The day started off shit, I actually got up at 2:30am, unable to go back to sleep, and decided to do my leg/vascular-opener ride for about 40 minutes and 10 miles. Nice and easy, but in the dark. I ended up double-puncturing because of bad rim tape on my clincher/training set of wheels and had to walk home about a mile and a half, at 5:30 in the morning. I got home, fixed everything, and realized my race wheels which I run tubeless, had lost a lot of air overnight and need more sealant added to it. No time to take care of that now, I am running my clinchers.
I got to the race nice and early, my mood started to shift to the positive. I had a good warm up. I saw lots of lines in the pre-ride that made sense to me through learning and practicing; predicting ruts, cutting apexes in turns, going tape to tape, running a little further before remounting when i needed to, etc. It’s not an ideal course for me, there is LOTS of soft dirt, a shitty bending sand pit, and drops I have to run instead of ride. Not ideal, but I felt ok. It was pretty warm, but not too hot. I felt sort of confident. I was using knowledge gained from the holy bible of cyclocross training.
In the call-up for my group, I got into the first row. Now last season this meant I was getting passed and shelled out the back on the hole shot before the first turn. It didn’t bother me much last year, I was learning and expected it. I wanted better this year.
I got a good start, but still bobbled by not clipping in quick enough. Nonetheless I jammed it out and didn’t really feel my heart rate rising too much either. I kept on the tail of four riders who got an even better start than me, and took a look over my shoulder.
I had a gap. A good one. Probably 3-4 seconds before the first turn. After the turn, leading into the barriers, I extended it by a second or two. By my standards, I was flying.
During pre-ride I never ran the barriers, never looked at them, never knew where they were. I came in on them WAY too hot, and didn’t brake enough or dismount quick enough, or some combination of the two. I was desperate to hold on to the gap I’d already gotten. In cyclocross, position is everything. It was stupid of me. As Jon later commented on my instagram “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Rationally, I know this. I’ve read it in the cyclocross bible tons of times, practiced this way, etc. In the heat of the moment, it never occurred to me. I knew the course a bit, and I knew my limit and I would have been wiser to give up a few places and go smooth…picking people off, or just getting passed through the course.
Instead, disaster. I clipped the first barrier, crashing between the two, and taking out some riders with me. Face down in the grass and amid the screams of “GET UP CROSSHAIRS KEEP RACING” I dislodged myself from other riders, tried to remount, and realized I’d dropped my chain. Got off, got chain back on and started jamming. While the entire group passed me in the interim, I was able to get onto the back thanks to a long straight away immediately after the barriers and a turn. Didn’t do much good though as the crowd was pretty thick with some of the features (deep dirty, twisty, terrible sand pit with a 90 degree turn in the middle of it) and eventually I got caught behind a crash and never was able to get back on.
Before that, I had to run up some stairs and I realized how I’d strained my knee considerably in the crash, and it was a knee that was already bothering me thanks to riding with a lower saddle the day before (bad idea to change fit the day before a race). I came around to where my wife and kids were waiting with a bottle handup of water for me, and picked off a couple of women’s riders from the group that started in front of us, but the men were in the distance to me. Feeling my knee swelling and realizing this was the first race of the season, I pulled the plug after one lap. It’s a long season and I was pretty worried how my knee really felt. Sitting here this morning, it’s better, but not great and I’ll stay off the bike today.
They say cross takes at least 3 seasons to “get.” I definitely felt more confident in this race. I had no nerves, and no expectations. Just wanted to do better than last year and I had the sole goal of finising on the lead lap with the group I start with, even if it was at the very tail end, 7 or 8 minutes down. Based on the lap times I heard, minus the big crash and getting caught behind the second one, even on a course that didn’t suit me, I think I would have accomplished that or at least come pretty close. I have pretty modest goals, I think.
This next week’s track is much more favorable to me, and then I get a break for two weeks until the next time I toe the line. I’ve got some priorities in training over the next three weeks before that particular race. Namely: practice, practice practice. I’ve got at least one “organized” practice with some race intensity this week, hopefully two. I need it. Live and learn right? Fight another day? All that shit. It’s a long season and only #2 for me. Brush it off and get back out there. Gotta work on those barriers. I’ll leave you with a video of my main dude handing me some water during my only lap. See you next week (and every week thereafter) with another race report.
Erika Aguilar the Orange County reporter from KPCC joins me on the September episode of “Three and Two and One” to discuss Latino identity, America, moral responsibilities, bringing people together through the power of food, and happiness (or the unachievable quest for it). Erika is typically on the other side of the mic, so this is a new experience for her, she’s also a friendly native Texan who is handy with great conversation. I really enjoyed our time together and hope you do too.
I know I am far from the only one that loves Beach Slang. Here’s an acoustic set James did for NPR Tiny Desk.
“Life’s tough, but life’s really beautiful as well, and I hope yours is that. More on the beautiful side…”
I am glad music still moves me now the way it did when I was 7 years old buying 45rpm records at Gemco. I’d save every dime I earned around the house to get a Men Without Hats or Michael Jackson 7″ record. I’d come home and file them away in a Star Wars themed record box I had. With a little handle and golden clasp and I’d carry it around the house and organize and reorganize my sonic treasures.
I remember kids at school telling me they didn’t really care about music. I was dumbfounded. I was collecting records before I collected baseball cards. My Mom found so much solvency for her own soul through Elton John, Super Tramp, K-Earth 101, and others. Music was important to me early, often, and continuously. Hell, I built my first career around working in music without any experience, just the end of a pen and a pad of paper and when it was called for, a little bit of business smarts.
My taste in music has shifted, or evolved, or matured, or maybe just changed. I was on a steady diet of punk rock in my late teens and early 20s until a fateful trip to St Louis landed me in front of a memorial to Miles Davis which shifted a lot of my attention to Kind of Blue, and like many before me, many since, and many to come, that record cemented interest in jazz for me. Around the same time I got heavily into reggae thanks to a certain box set. I’ve got band influenced tattoos, some of them are flat out logos. I can still play a little guitar and fantasize about writing some songs and recording a solo record. Maybe I’ll finally do it in 2016.
Lately I have been really into the Kids Don’t Follow Podcast (yes, named after the Replacements song) and it’s reminded me a bit of the love I have at my core for indie and punk rock. Still I find a lot of beauty in lots of different music that 10 or 15 years ago I’d have scuffled at. It’s ok. It’s a big world full of great music of all different genres and the worst thing you can do is have a closed mind to any of it. Hell, I’ve heard Dave Matthews songs that are bursting with heart and amazing musicianship. Music rules. It keeps you young and feeds the soul. It’s beautiful. Life is still beautiful. Stay into it; music and life. For many of us, the two are one in the same.
Talked out and now I’m feeling crowded.
All the errands in the world won’t save us now.
Rained in and I won’t come unclouded.
There’s a stillness in the air.
I pray for sound.
We’re too smart to watch TV.
We’re too dumb to make believe
this is all we want from life.
And I’m too dumb to talk to you.
You’re so quick to listen to me.
I’m saying nothing you don’t know.
Nothing you don’t know.
Walked out and I won’t be rerouted.
If I don’t go outside today, I never will.
Too old not to get excited
about rain and roads,
Egyptian ruins, our first kiss.
I love you more than I ever loved
Anyone before, or anyone to come.
Someone said your name, I thought of you alone.
I was just the same, twenty blocks away.
Blew twelve and kissed the thirteenth finger.
“Rabbit, rabbit,” on the first.
I hold my breath.
Did tricks I hoped you wouldn’t notice.
A superstitious hyperrealist.
I’ll make you mine.
In what feels like a previous life, say 15-18 years ago, I wrote for various punk rock and alternative music magazines. Like many of my peers and brethren I capped off regular columns with “End Notes,” items I wanted to mention that didn’t really fit in the theme of whatever I was writing about. This post is sort of a version of End Notes for my week.
First off, THANK YOU to everyone that has listened to, subscribed, rated, reviewed, or told a friend about Three and Two and One. I am terribly grateful for all of the feedback I have gotten from the debut episode, which has been overwhelmingly positive. Again a huge thanks to John Holzer for being the first guest and helping teach me the technical know-how needed. The big debate now is how often do I post a new show? It’s looking realistically like the fourth Thursday (evening) of the month is manageable, but a few people have told me they’d like to see two shows per month. That’s a lot of production time leading up to a recording, which in an of itself takes about two hours for set up, record, and breakdown. We will see, but in the meantime please subscribe, listen, rate and review! Thank you so much. Stitcher availability coming very soon.
I’m down only .8lbs this week, but that does put me at 31 pounds overall, and this was the first week in which everyone actually took notice which is nice. 10 more pounds until I get dunked for body fat testing and then recalibrate my weight loss goals. My hunch is I have about 30lbs to go to hit 10% body fat, at which time I will be lean as fuck, but not really skinny like a racing cyclist. Still, looking forward to it. Despite all the mental shit I am going through, I am totally locked-in and not likely to be derailed this time.
Speaking of cycling, I went out to a cyclocross practice on Wednesday that was littered with Category 1 and Masters racers and frankly, for my first time on a cross course in a year, I felt ok about it. I was a little demoralized initially trying to keep up, but then I realize that that shouldn’t be my goal with this group (I am a category 4/5 racer) and that instead I should be trying to learn, being realistic within my goals, and just trying to soak in as much as I can from both observation and conditioning that comes from hot-lap race intensity.
Now speaking of the mental shit, I started off the week pretty well. This was going to be the first full week without an appointment with my therapist (I go back tomorrow at 9am – she was booked for the entire week). Things began to pile up in my head culminating with a very difficult Saturday. It sucked but it is what it is. I feel a little better today post-training ride and with a run coming up this afternoon, but still not great. Hopefully better after tomorrow’s appointment.
I had started a post about the connection between maturity and sexuality, discussing fantasy and reality and how an adult (me) comes to terms with it all, but it was the first time when I’ve felt a bit too vulnerable and a bit too close to actually discussing some of the topics in therapy publicly, so I am going to shelf that for now. Let’s just say there have been some marked changes in who I am as a person over the last seven or eight months, and this is a place where I’ve had a significant shifting, some might even call it growth. Even journaling this much is stretching me.
I still owe you, my loyal two or three readers, a post about our camping trip a few weeks ago, complete with photos shot on a proper camera. All apologies, but I took about 600 pictures and maybe want to post 5-10. It’s coming soon, I hope.
Progress on my novel has been slowed as I’ve gotten the Podcast business kind of figured out. I am hoping to start picking up on it again tomorrow as it’s a rest day from cyclocross training.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Street Fair Week here in Old Towne Orange, generally my favorite week of the year. I hope therapy gets me off on the right foot for it.
That’s it. Currently listening to Ted Leo, about to go for a run, take a dip in the pool, and watch Fear the Walking Dead (and I think I am going to sneak in a Maple Leaf cookie shake) and dream of Autumn.
John Holzer joins me for the debut episode of Three and Two and One and a conversation about songs that make us cry, how the media handled the attack of a homeless man in Boston, and how we handle it when people let us down. John’s a great conversationalist and we could have gone on for hours and hours.
Three and Two and One – Episode 000: Introduction is now posted and available!
It’s just a couple of minutes of me discussing the idea for the show and what to expect. Episode 001 featuring John Holzer of Four Brewers (and formerly New Brew Thursday) podcasting fame is the first guest and will be available this Friday, August 28th. All new episodes will be posted early in the morning (Pacific time) on the last Friday of the month.
I owe John a huge debt of gratitude for spending a good portion of his Sunday in my garage helping me setting up and teaching me all of the technical aspects of the podcast so I can work on it on my own in the future. Thanks John, you’re one of the good guys.
You can listen to the show below or subscribe on iTunes! (link coming shortly)