Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What We Need More Of

This is my cowbell – half a cowbell, actually, with no clapper in it, and even if you could figure out a way to tie it around a cow’s neck you wouldn’t hear any bell. Its musical days, as they say, are as long gone as vegans from a butcher shop.

I bought the cowbell in 2006 at a farm-supply store in Carbondale, Illinois, for purposes of having loud, rollicking happy times with my buddies at cyclocross races. My buddies had cowbells, too, and a couple of collapsible stadium party horns, and when we were at the races together we rang our bells and blew our horns and laughed and life honestly has never gotten better than that – at least for me: My buddies may have had more fun doing other things.

I bought the sticker on this cowbell in 2006, too, at a legendary Sons of Ralph show at Jack of the Wood in Asheville, North Carolina. What a great band. What a great night. I believe my life became a collapsible stadium party horn after that night, in fact; that’s how epic that night was.

I destroyed this cowbell in December of 2007, at the United States Cyclocross Championships in Kansas City. I was watching the races next to some metal fencing along the run-up and my enthusiasm for cyclocross was so profound that I bashed the hell out of the cowbell against the fence all day long, for four full days, at the end of which the cowbell had broken in half and I had broken my right index finger in the process.

I should throw the fucking thing away, I guess. I’ve thrown most everything else away in my life. I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I. I should stop using I so much, too, but I’m not ready to throw I away just yet. I figure if I keep the cowbell, I keep my reason for living alive.

Odd item: Six or seven years ago – can’t nail down the exact date anymore (maybe it was when I quit smoking cigarettes?) – I gave up all interest in writing, in books, in people who are involved with writing and with books, and I placed my ass on a bicycle saddle and pedaled off into a new leg-shaved, Spandex-clad way of seeing the world. I rode a lot, I raced some, and I most definitely was not an exceptional cyclist – merely another midlife-crisis person trying to pedal his way into some kind of peace with the world. I didn’t find it. In the old days, before cycling, when I was an up-and-coming writer, when I first had published some shit on the national level, I was about as exceptional a writer as I was a cyclist during my most extreme cycling-fanatic period. This is to say that compared to the other writers who were coming through the transom at the same time as me, my talents were average at best. There’s no shame in that, either – this is a big world, and a big world means lots of brilliant, talented people live in it. But when I figured this out, when I realized I was never going to be a major literary figure, well, needless to say, my sense of total disillusionment was fairly goddam epic. Fuckin-A.

This, like so much gas, has passed now. I don’t write to be the best. I don’t ride bikes to be the best. I will never be the best at anything I will ever do. And that’s totally cool with me.

So yeah, I’m going for a bike ride this afternoon. Till then, I’m going to work happily at my desk. When I get home from my bike ride, I’m going to work happily at my desk again. I may walk my dog a couple of times in there, too. From this dull life, joy will rise. I know it will.

Fuck anybody who says that’s not true.

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