Monthly Archives: August 2011

Southern Tour

I said I would be back and I am working on it. I am now at the boomerang point of my trip- West Point, Mississippi. Tomorrow I start the rewind process and haul it back through Alabama and across the Apalachicola River into Eastern Standard Time.

There’s going to be some serious bike riding going on this weekend. Holy smokes will there be some riding.


Rest Easy Daddy Mention

I was driving down I-95 yesterday with the split ends of Hurricane Irene’s long hair whipping rain across the road when the local public radio affiliate out of Jacksonville announced that Stetson Kennedy was in palliative care and not expected to recover. It broke my heart.

I looked out the window to the east and the sky was dark, dark blue with clouds stacking up on top of clouds, with a big anvil-edged nimbus crown leaning in over the coast. The report said he was in and out of consciousness and I wondered if he knew the storm was coming, and if he was waiting for it to carry him away?

I felt the urge to get off the interstate and go to his home in St. Johns County, and wait with other friends and acolytes who no doubt have gathered there, but instead I turned west towards the rest of my own good fight.


Juancho’s 2011 Not Recommended Reading List

A little discussed aspect of my wellness program of 2011 is literature. When you give up certain behaviors and habits they must be replaced with something. Brown rice and kale are only part of the story. Books are an essential part of my continued turnaround. I have always been a reader and a lover of books. I worked in the FSU Strozier Library for the Inter-Library Loans office my first two years of college. I would rush through my rounds of picking up and dropping off titles to be loaned abroad so I could have the rest of my shift to browse the stacks and take naps on the ledge of the 5th floor, where they keep the Early American Literature.

In 1995-96 I worked for Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. At the time it was the largest independent bookstore in the country. I worked in a satellite store that specialized in books for cooks and gardeners. I was the guy who produced the UPC Scan stickers and put them on the books. I was happy to do it.

In recent years my taste became lazy. Challenging books began to intimidate me. Why bother? It will take forever. It’s probably stupid. With an entire bookcase of Louis L’Amour to work through, why would I ever ride my Appaloosa in off of the prairie?

Last September I set a goal of reading one book in particular, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I had read many of his non-fiction books and found his voice and breadth of references exhilarating. Reading DFW is like sticking your finger in the light socket over and over for fun. Infinite Jest was his most powerful wattage. This book was big enough to replace all kinds of demons and hobgoblins. So that is how it began: Brown rice, yoga, and 1,079 pages of compulsively footnoted compound sentences. As my brain woke up to the rigors of such a demanding read, I added new books to the list. I added some only because of their daunting reputations, and others because they caught my eye as books do.

I do not recommend any of these books to any of you, because recommending books is a lost cause. Books find us, and no third party can make a book the right choice for us at any given time. I draw inspiration and food for thought from many of you, so consider this a vanity post. As I pat myself on the back, feel free to read over my shoulder as you see fit. I will keep my comments brief.

Titles are linked, if you can’t tell.

Infinite Jest– It had to be done.
The Instructions Instant Favorite. Join the Side of Damage.
Chronic City– Late nights with Perkus Tooth
Cloud Atlas– The best 3 short stories and a novella to ever pretend to be a novel.
Freedom– Held my nose through the entire story, loathing everyone, then cried at the end.
State of Wonder– Chew all the flavor out of this one.
A Visit from the Goon Squad Rock and roll as high art
War– Happening right now.
Matterhorn– Dude must know people. Reads like an 8th grade book report. Not a good one.
Stephen King On Writing Stephen King must have serious issues with Infinite Jest.

Libra This is a fantastic book if you have trouble falling asleep. Well-crafted, but oh so what.

The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris. A tender account of an American affliction.

How about you guys, read any good books lately?


The Grippe

That’s what people used to call the flu. The Grippe. It makes sense because it grabs hold of you and drags you down. I don’t know if I caught the full on grippe, but the last 48 hours have left me disconnected from reality. A spaceman on the dark side of the moon. Fever dreams and broken glass in my joints. On Monday I carried 2000 lbs of furniture with my new neighbor. I barely had time to speculate on what a hernia feels like before I was laid low with the grippe.

Two days of twilight sleeping and wet sheets. Sneezing and snotting. Planning how to get to the kitchen and boil water for tea as if it were an endurance event. The bright side is I am closing in on the end of Cloud Atlas which has proven to be the toughest read in my 2011 list of tough reads. A fever should be mandatory for reading this book which respects neither time nor space. It has me looking forward to a little Elmore Leonard.

What have I missed?



I am the son of a carpenter. His father, my Papa, was a carpenter also. He served in the SeaBees Naval Construction Force. My brother is renowned for his knowledge of tools and trade systems. We built our house when I was about twelve. My brother was six. He was on the roof hammering in shingles while I walked around below picking up lost nails and scraps of wood. I was not jealous. I thought he was being punished.

I am told I was a pretty good waiter, and I can cook anything under any conditions. I was a better than average breakdancer and I won an award in World History in 10th grade. I am not without worth.

Tools though, have a way of getting lost, or not being where I want them to be when needed. Tools are never the right size and they are rarely charged to functioning capacity. Tools for me have been unreliable. Most of my friends take a lot of pleasure in strapping on the tool belt and going about the manly business of tooling. My friends can build rock climbing gyms and pole barns. They can tile floors and mix mud with Tommy’s drill, “Old Grandpa.” They lay fiberglass in the boat and run duct work above and below as required.

For me, this type of activity means picking up nails and being confused. I can’t keep the necessary steps in the right order and every act appears to be random and mystical. As they solid block the floor joists I wonder if burning some sage might not accomplish the same thing. Once the nails are picked up I get right to the next task, feeling dumb.

Things might be changing though. Mungam, Robot Army Regular, stopped by last night to further improve upon the rescue job Tommy did on a leaky faucet. I helped. Fixing stuff is about more than feeling stupid. It is about spending time with your bros in comfortable parallel play activity. It is about self-reliance and the joy of knowing what you have to do today. When the hot water is running freely you don’t deliberate between a bike ride or yoga class. You make the water stop.

Mungam and I rode to the big Hardware stores in his gigantic pickup truck and just riding shotgun in such a rig extended my manhood a quarter inch. At one point I encouraged him to go ahead and ram the Kia in front of us since we were almost in the backseat anyway. “Nah” he said. “She should hang up and drive, but that’s somebody’s mom.” A garnet-colored H2 Hummer passed us on the right and I said, “What about ramming that guy?” With a glance Mungam said, “and that guy is somebody’s douchebag cousin.”

You got to love tools.


I just stood in the tub watching the hot water run. I turned the handle on and off again just to be sure. Hot water, otherwise known as cash money, continued to pour from the faucet. 5 hours later and I have some quality time with my old buddy Tommy to be thankful for, and some knowledge of the mystery of where the water comes from. All anyone ever tells me is, “Shit flows downhill and payday is Friday.” That’s not enough to fix a faucet.


That’s okay. I didn’t want to ride anyway, and my bike is at the shop. What better on a Sunday morning than the suffocating responsibility of home ownership? There’s your buzz, your precious endorphins.

Yesterday I rode with the Dogboy and Greg the Leg. I went until I was spent. Somewhere on the backside of the Pedrick Greenway I said, and I quote, “I don’t think you pussies could drop me if you had the gas to try.” They disappeared like the Starship Enterprise. After that the ride got a little nicer, but I saw them again later. That mouth of mine, it does its own thing.


Claim Everything

I am thinking about everything up to this point. Over the years I have said that life is like stumbling down a dark hallway with your hands in front of your face. That ignores the fact that you can learn a lot about hallways by stumbling. I should get a medal for resisting things that are good for me. Last to Learn it would read. I get it eventually, and I want a medal for that too. He Gets it Eventually proudly displayed beneath Suspicious of Motives.

To achieve is admirable, to persevere is sublime.