A dead man, but a dead man of his word

Find What You Love And Let It Kill You

Find What You Love And Let It Kill You

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“My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours”

“• Charles Bukowski

It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight. Outside my window, the sky is lit not only by the usual flickering streetlights and myriad houses dotting the hill opposite, but with spiralling, falling colours accompanied by whistles, cracks and bangs. I feel only a slight compulsion to do more than look out the window every now and then, to pay more than idle attention to the kaleidoscopic pageant, to garner the same joy I felt as a child when that one night of the year came around, when we’d build a giant bonfire behind the back fence and let off a big bag of fireworks. Somewhere along the way, ‘crackers’ were banned, and they haven’t really been missed since. In this country though, it’s still possible to walk into the corner store and purchase your own personal pyrotechnics display. I’m not sure how I feel about that, maybe if I was 15, or 25, I’d be exploding things with the youthful enthusiasm of the best of them, but now it just doesn’t register on the scale of cool shit to do for fun.

Riding a bike still registers, mostly. It comes and goes, but because it’s been a constant for a lifetime, it will always be welcome. And because of its constance, I’ve retained at least some sense of what it’s like to feel 13 again. Even though I ache like a 50 year old, and get frustrated and agitated by the sheer fuckedness of the world presented to me, riding a bike seems to extinguish any negativity. Today, as I lay on some sort of padded rack contraption, contrast dye coursing through my veins, while I was inserted lengthwise into a giant tube that took photos of my insides, thoughts of death, or more so the mechanics of trying to prevent it, were running through my mind at breakneck speed. I don’t know if it’s increased since I’ve knocked up my half ton of years or not, but I’m noticing that I think about mortality a lot (more) these days.

Strangely though, there’s little concern that the thing that makes me happiest also has the most potential to take my life. Or, more accurately, the potential for my life to be taken whilst I’m doing the thing I love most. It never really clouds a ride with thoughts that at any given moment I am mere centimetres or seconds from death, yet my instincts are no doubt doing their best to subconsciously keep me one step ahead of peril. The bike and the act of riding it has kept me alive while simultaneously putting me in grave danger. Bandaging up my wounds, giving me CPR then pushing me back out onto the frontline.

There is a kind of melancholy, muted relief now I have been given a warrant of fitness; the warm liquid that made me feel like I’d had lukewarm coffee pumped directly into my blood showing that, despite years of extraneous abuse, things are still in good working fettle. Thoughts of an impending expiry failed to foment any real fear, just a realisation that we’re not able to live forever after all, and that’s not a bad thing in any sense.

That one constant, the bike and the act of riding it, has probably staved off a fate far worse than death; being alive but not living. And death, to me, is not being able to ride a bike.

Ride to live, live to ride.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus

  1. Thank Merckx we die. The world would be WAY more fucked up if we didn’t. Glad to hear the CT was ok.

  2. “Fuckedness” is a great twist on old and ever-flexible classic. Be well, have fun, ride bike. Rearrange order as necessary.

  3. @Ccos

    Thank Merckx we die. The world would be WAY more fucked up if we didn’t. Glad to hear the CT was ok.

    Or MRI as the case may be (my reading comprehension at this time of day can be dicey).

  4. Could be worse, you could be a racehorse.

  5. Awesome, Brett! That is what most people don’t get, that is an inside secret of sorts, but shouldn’t be: riding a bike, though it might be cold or raining is fucking fun! It keeps you young, it reminds you of being a kid.

    A few things. a) started a new job and get to bike commuter on a dedicated path. What a way to start/end a workday! Bookends of happiness. b) New job, house purchase looming, new things. Yep, I feel as if I’ve hit a new phase of life as well. Not all bad, of course, but I do feel “older” than I did just a year or two ago. Hell, it was time to grow up. A bit. c) the dismay with all that is fucked up in the world. Post-election day is a rough one in the U.S. if you give a fuck about things like the environment or education. Ouch. But, I won’t get into politics too much. Just to say that yes, the world does in fact feel like it might implode any ol’ minute.

    WOF!! Those signs kept me feeling young when I lived in New Zealand. WOF? That garage sells dogs as well as fixes cars?! The Subaru wagon we used to get to the beach never had it’s WOF. Should my pal ever return, I think the ticket cop will be greeting him at the airport.

  6. Oh yeah…just watched a documentary on Bukowski. What an amazing character. I had read “Women” a few years ago. That dude was a madman. Talk about living full-out for an entire lifetime!

    I love his poem “Bluebird.” Check it out, if you haven’t read it yet.

  7. @Ccos

    @Ccos

    Thank Merckx we die. The world would be WAY more fucked up if we didn’t. Glad to hear the CT was ok.

    Or MRI as the case may be (my reading comprehension at this time of day can be dicey).

    CT… not as scary as it sounds.

  8. @minion

    Could be worse, you could be a racehorse.

    Yep, or a cow, or pig, or woman… strangely these three things seem to morph into one at Melbourne Cup time.

  9. Just got back from six days in the Grand Canyon back country to find a lot of introspection here. Surely, I could be killed by some idiot while on the bike, but I could just as surely have taken a misstep on parts of the North Kaibab trail and plummeted 900 feet to my death. Seems like I don’t let those thoughts stop me from doing what I love, but as the rolling coal post points out it’s up to me to be as safe as possible and keep a level head. Because what sort of life would it be if I didn’t go outside?

  10. Yep. I’d dig horse racing if they took away the whips, spurs, drugs, selective culling, and “euthenasia” of racehorses, then you’d see what horse wants to run the fastest. No sarcasm, I actually reckon that’d be pretty cool. Like clean cycling.

  11. @Owen

    Just got back from six days in the Grand Canyon back country to find a lot of introspection here.

    It’s the off season and we haven’t got round to arguing about helmets or sheep yet.

  12. @brett Love the photo. That truly looks like a no frills establishment for hard drinking. Until you look at the wine glasses.

    I rarely think about the dangers whilst out on the bike but I’ve found myself thinking about them more off the bike than I used to.

  13. Nice work Brett – great article!

    I read about a study done on TDF particpants through the years that looked at life expectancy. The bottom line was that even when you take into account the gentlemen whose lives were cut short in pursuit of their sport in accidents and the like, average life expectancy was still considerably greater than the general population.

    Love the picture that you chose for the article too! I enjoy photography and have been doing some reading about a composition theory called the Fibonacci spiral. There’s some sort of mathematical equation behind the spiral that follows the Fibonacci sequence. The spiral itself looks like this…

    fibonacci

    This image is a reasonable example of this composition, where your eye just sort of flows along from the gentleman up front and then carries on from person to person in a very comfortable way. Love it!

  14. Well played. Possibly some of your finest artistic work since your brief cameo as the hardcore of the Welly White Boys. Glad the CT went ok.

  15. You Dick! There goes my article about handle bar tape for Friday.

    That’s one of the better photos of Bukowski, a scary looking man. And yes, nothing like some quality time in a giant scanner looking deep inside your body to bring on long morose daydreams of one’s immanent death. Well done on that too, bullet dodged.

    For my friends that are sure I’ll get killed while riding my bike, what am I supposed to do? Stop riding so I won’t die that way? Screw that, everything has its associated risk and cycling is a risk I’ll always take.

    Ride to Live; Live to Ride. Well done Brett.

  16. @kixsand ” There’s some sort of mathematical equation behind the spiral that follows the Fibonacci sequence ”

    Agree, similar I assume to the way Aston Martin use the two thirds one third rule for all their car designs

    @brett – great read and very timely for me also in all the things you spoke of. Better to die living.

    My daughter can tell if I havnt been for a ride as my “attitude” changes towards the downward spiral that is the world today.

    She then proceeds to tell me to go for a ride “to get my dolphins ” going ! I assume dolphins is her way of saying endorphins !

  17. @Buck Rogers might want to read this one.

  18. As Axel always said, “Fuckin A”!

  19. @brett

    @minion

    Could be worse, you could be a racehorse.

    Yep, or a cow, or pig, or woman… strangely these three things seem to morph into one at Melbourne Cup time.

    DAMN Man, with a statement like that you had better hope that Chrissy is not visiting your town (or house) anytime soon.

  20. @freddy

    @Buck Rogers might want to read this one.

    Indeed. I truly believe that one never feels more alive than when they are closest to being killed.

    And when my time comes, I hope I can go gracefully. But until then, Fuck it, squeezing everything that I can out of this ride!

  21. @Barracuda

    She then proceeds to tell me to go for a ride “to get my dolphins ” going ! I assume dolphins is her way of saying endorphins !

    Love it. Dolphining. The 13 year old Brett, and all the rest of us, flying on our bikes, fluidly cresting hills to dive down again, to spin and turn and jump with a pod of friends or just solo because it brings such joy will be an image to keep.

    One of the best things to do in NZ has to be a whale watching trip at Kaikoura. After seeing obligatory whale surface, breathe, dive we went inshore and got surrounded by a pod of dolphins as they herded a school of fish into the coast by jumping, somersaulting & splashing. Tremendous.

    It must now be time to go for a ride, and smile.

  22. @Barracuda

    My daughter can tell if I havnt been for a ride as my “attitude” changes towards the downward spiral that is the world today.

    She then proceeds to tell me to go for a ride “to get my dolphins ” going ! I assume dolphins is her way of saying endorphins !

    My VMH detects same, usually only after two or three days off the bike but she’s not so polite about it. All I get is “Go for a bloody ride will you! You’re getting cranky again!”

  23. @Chris Frank will taunt Brett sooner or later. It’s the Keepers’ Way.

    Can we all just agree that the POC helmets are absolutely hideous?

  24. @Puffy

    @Puffy

    @Barracuda

    My daughter can tell if I havnt been for a ride as my “attitude” changes towards the downward spiral that is the world today.

    She then proceeds to tell me to go for a ride “to get my dolphins ” going ! I assume dolphins is her way of saying endorphins !

    My VMH detects same, usually only after two or three days off the bike but she’s not so polite about it. All I get is “Go for a bloody ride will you! You’re getting cranky again!”

    ^^ this, if you happen to be reading wifey, see I’m not weird.

    Great article, captures it all for me – moreso as another cyclist lies in critical condition in a local hospital and the media are currently targetting cyclists for being irresponsible road users.

  25. (oh wow dropped to “4”)

  26. 50? You’re still a baby! The world fuckedness increases as the years go by, sadly, but so long as you can swing a leg over the crossbar there’s a way to escape it all.

  27. @brett

    The bike and the act of riding it has kept me alive while simultaneously putting me in grave danger. Bandaging up my wounds, giving me CPR then pushing me back out onto the frontline.

    Tough love. Best kind.

    @Gianni

    For my friends that are sure I’ll get killed while riding my bike, what am I supposed to do? Stop riding so I won’t die that way? Screw that, everything has its associated risk and cycling is a risk I’ll always take.

    Family and friends give me this kind of craven nonsense daily. They then get in their cars and commute to work at 85mph while gabbing on their phones. Mental.

    I live with the full expectation that one day, I’ll get my ticket punched while I’m on the bike. Hopefully it’ll happen when I’m old. The ultimate would be having a coronary while crossing the finish line at Paris Brest Paris circa 2054 or so – what could be a better death? I’m obliged to die anyway, so fuck it. No fear.

    I must not fear.

    Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

    I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing….only I will remain.

    Many thanks to @frankherbert for that gem.

  28. Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.

    Jim Morrison.

  29. Crikey this is all getting a bit high brow. So I’ll add…….

    What does not kill me, makes me stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888

  30. @Ron……..”bookends of happiness”, lovely turn of phrase.

    It’s midnight and I just rode home from work in the full moonlight, dodging the spiders that loom at the last seconds in their giant scary webs. I feel delicious. The silent purr of a fixed-wheel in the dark was my sotte vocce accompaniment. My bicycle always gives me that “let out of school early” feeling of total freedom and child joy.

  31. Fantastic piece of writing. Inspiring, very nice work.

  32. @Teocalli

    Crikey this is all getting a bit high brow. So I’ll add…….

    What does not kill me, makes me stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888

    19th century’s version of HTFU.

    Can’t imagine Nietzsche using the word “Fucktard” though.

  33. @Teocalli Way too highbrow. But if we’re going there, I quite like this

    @Ambrose Redmoon

    Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that
    something else is more important than fear

    By all accounts Ambrose was a bit of a hippy so it probably needs a bit of balance from an old school hardman.

    @Marcus Aurelius

    It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

  34. The constancy of being on the razor thin edge of life and death is useually at least partially in my conscious mind while I ride, unless I am on the MTB and then I just worry about broken bones. I continue to ride but still wrestle with the concept that it’s worth it.

  35. @Chris

    @Teocalli Way too highbrow. But if we’re going there, I quite like this

    @Ambrose Redmoon

    Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that
    something else is more important than fear

    By all accounts Ambrose was a bit of a hippy so it probably needs a bit of balance from an old school hardman.

    @Marcus Aurelius

    It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

    To add to the train of quotes, from the movie “the grey”. Once more into the Fray/into the last good fight I’ll know/love and die on this day/live and die on this day

  36. Found this little gem about an Aussie bike collector only known as ‘James’. Some great and poignant quotes from him at the end. (Apparently James met his end a while back too… RIP)

  37. @brett

    Found this little gem about an Aussie bike collector only known as ‘James’. Some great and poignant quotes from him at the end. (Apparently James met his end a while back too… RIP)

    Thanks for sharing that! What a character! Loved how the bikes were immaculate and the truck . . . less so.

  38. Brett I hear you. I stopped riding for awhile and put on an impressive amount of weight. Every year the tour would come along and I would talk about getting back on the bike. Long story short – after an angiogram and quadruple by-pass surgery I’m final back on the bike, back to racing weight and riding track for a bit of entertainment. The road bike is pretty much for commuting and light training. I’d much rather be taken out by some mad punter in a four wheel drive (good post Kevin) than by my own body wallowing on a couch! It’s all about the bike!!

  39. Soooo, when I finally meet Trent Reznor, it’s curtains for me? I dunno, didn’t read the article.

  40. @Buck Rogers

    @brett

    @minion

    Could be worse, you could be a racehorse.

    Yep, or a cow, or pig, or woman… strangely these three things seem to morph into one at Melbourne Cup time.

    DAMN Man, with a statement like that you had better hope that Chrissy is not visiting your town (or house) anytime soon.

    I feel I should defend Bretto here, since I encouraged him, but it’s Melbourne Cup week here in the Antipodes, a horse race otherwise known as cruelty to Animals month. 2 of the horses after the race had to be killed. Brett’s a raging vegetarian, so he and I (occasionally) see eye to eye on this topic. I also think that Brett’s on the Feminist side of the fence, in that women earn less, and are more likely to be killed by a spouse, sexually assaulted, and be harassed over their appearance than men; I get the feeling Brett’s listing groups that are at a distinct disadvantage in our society.

    Of course if he’s being a complete fuckwit by equating women to horses then I’m wrong. But I’m not often wrong and it’s not the third Tuesday of the year, so my being wrong is physically impossible and would lead to a collapse of the space time continuum.

  41. @minion Ha! Just adding some spice to the pot. My panties are not in a bunch over it all. But it did make me do a double take there. Must be getting soft in my old age!

  42. While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

    Leonardo da Vinci

    Genius, he had a way of looking at everything from an unexpected angle…

  43. I love using a chainsaw but…

  44. My favorite Bukowski poem: ‘The History of One Tough Motherfucker’

    I am trying to stay on the clever side of stupid riding through traffic lately. Lot’s of selfish, fearful, tuned out people in cars (or so I project).

    Riding home on empty streets in pouring rain against the wind last night was a pleasure.

  45. @piers.fraser

    Brett I hear you. I stopped riding for awhile and put on an impressive amount of weight. Every year the tour would come along and I would talk about getting back on the bike. Long story short – after an angiogram and quadruple by-pass surgery I’m final back on the bike, back to racing weight and riding track for a bit of entertainment. The road bike is pretty much for commuting and light training. I’d much rather be taken out by some mad punter in a four wheel drive (good post Kevin) than by my own body wallowing on a couch! It’s all about the bike!!

    Hear, hear. Nothing like staring the Reaper right in the face and getting a reprieve to grant perspective.

  46. @brett. “And death to me is not being able to ride a bike.” That’s the killer line right there. Thanks for sharing Brett. KTF.

  47. Great article.

    Sometime last week I had a crap day at work, had a few text exchanges with the VMH to the effect that things weren’t going well.

    Gave it some V on the way home, and got caught out by unexpected heavy rain in cool-ish temperatures and didn’t have the right kit on.

    I arrived home soaked and a bit cold around the edges. The VMH asked me how I was. My puzzled response was ‘er, wet?’ as I headed for the shower. About ten minutes later I realised she’d been asking how I now felt about the crap day that I’d long since forgotten all about. An hour of Rules #5 and #9 had washed it all away.

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