It's a challenge for me to not use pictures. But I'm in a strange and good place and I'm eager to shrug off patterns and habits and so I'll write today using just one picture to set the mood.
A blurred picture at that, but sometimes the reversed camera option focuses on the finger pushing the timer and doesn't refocus. These are first world issues.
This is not my junk
Not a slam on my housemate, she has five acres, graciously given to her in the California foothills. And a house. Payment for her caregiving of an old friend who died just four months after my dad, in the same year, and in the same town. As with country property there are opportunities for multiple dwellings, out-shacks, yurts, cabins, and neapolitan-colored trailers to exist and then plant themselves. Maybe I'll break my new rule and take a picture of the trailer. It's pretty cool.
But these multiple dwellings come in like a wonderful new idea, and then just like many of our plans or goals in life they get started but not finished. Or they come in strong and the weather just breaks them down. They also seem to draw other items to themselves. Chairs, tables, candle stands, planters, etc.. When I first began cleaning and clearing up my own father's property, in the summer of 2011, I started with seven non-running vehicles to contend with. Most just needed a jump. Dad apparently would get tired of one or it would die in the mud, and then someone would donate a new one and off he'd go.
It has a bit of an Animal House the morning after feel, maybe that's appropriate as the animals outnumber the humans two-to-one. Also it feels appropriate for 2020; like a crash scene that no one wants to clean up.
I awoke to an email that basically negates 50% of the reason I'm here. It's not that I didn't see it coming, but it's real and now I'm on the other side of it. I had hoped to explore a new bike trail today, one that I've heard about and that bears my last name, though not directly from my dad so it might be FLO or FLO jr. (Frederick Law). However the email once read put me in a different mood so I thought it might be a thinking kind of a day.
Then my second plan when I was taken with the gorgeous light as I took the above photo was to help said housemate - who's out of town btw - by selling her Toyota Truck. First it would need a jumpstart I was told, and possibly clutch fluid or adjustment. I do like selling cars, and I just sold a Mustang for a friend two weeks ago that I got more $ for than I thought so I'm feeling extra confident if I do say so myself. I found the key to the Toyota and of course the dogs, Bella and Vita, followed me down the path as any adventure however short has always got their vote. The clutch fluid was fine so the fact that the clutch pedal goes to the floor presents another problem, and not one I find myself too excited to deal with. Combined with the 366,000 miles I saw on the odometer I let the hood drop and decided instead to throw the ball a few times for the dogs.
As soon as the hood slammed shut and the dogs were out of earshot I noticed that option three for today was relentlessly presenting itself to me, and so loudly that I could not refuse.
It was the silence.
Not just the silence but the sounds. I understand the song is entering any westerners' mind right now and that's ok. But I'm not in the late 60's post-war mood that was present when that song was written. Instead I feel I'm being forced and entering willingly, to a day and a moment that might as well be knocking as loudly as a warrior knocks on the gates of hell, yet it's instead a gentle breeze that is coercing me in these gold country foothills.
And the colors are just popping. True I've seen more color in these exact hillsides but the golds seem more bright this year. Maybe I've just forgotten.
Maybe we all have.
Further proof that this is being thrust upon me today, my other housemate is finishing a painting job and he just vanished, without even an "ok have a good day." Make no mistake I'm not upset, it just feels very destined and that maybe even subconsciously he was aware I was needing to just be.
Even the dogs are not bothering me with the ball.
Something's happening here
When Buffalo Springfield wrote and performed their seminal classic 'For What it's Worth,' the next line fit, "what it is ain't exactly clear."
I don't think that's the case this time.
I think it's blatantly clear.
We're suffering from a lack of shared values and it's showing. It doesn't matter what you or I think those shared values should be, there's someone I guarantee who's opposed. It does no good, at least from where I'm standing, to repeat old phrases or clichés about common decency or the common good, or "how things were," or for America, or Democracy, because now even the meanings of actual words are being challenged and disagreed upon. Words like facsism, socialism, any ism apparently.
Back to today.
The email that came to me last night and that I read today means that the bicycles I wanted to make and have been receiving deposits for will not be made. At least not by this fabricator. And definitely not in time for Christmas.
The fabricator is talented and did a great job on the prototype, which I was planning to ride today on the previously mentioned trail, but it's evident to me now that we don't share the same vision. The odd part is that I wasn't aware we needed to.
He did a significant amount of research, about costs of tubing and materials and dropouts, and I checked into decals and paint costs and even received a dealer cost approval from a major distributor, which will help me whenever I am able to produce more bikes.
But as I reflected on the nine months we've been working on making these 10-20 bikes, based on my recent BMX documentary 30 Bikes: The Story of Homestead Bicycles, I reflected on the vision that I knew we didn't share when we first met, but which I thought wouldn't matter, since after all I was the one paying. You don't want to make green bikes? Here's some money can you make a green bike. You don't think they should have these tubes here or there? Here's some money can you weld those tubes here or there?
I thought he could.
It turns out I was wrong. He is simply unable to build a bike which has a vision he does not agree with. This to me is strange, and this shared vision thing seems bigger now. People are beyond disagreeing, or not wanting to work with someone, they're now wanting companies or networks to disavow themselves of an actor or anchor who they disagree with, or whom they feel has a different vision of the world.
I don't remember it being so.
It used to be Ford guys made fun of Chevy guys and vice versa, and Dodge guys were avoiding the argument altogether, just interested in burning more fuel and creating more horsepower than either of them. Now it seems one might get 'cancelled' just for driving a Ford, or a Chevy, or for choosing to drive a car at all.
For having a different vision.
Is this really what I want to talk about - what I am listening to these woods for?
I'm reminded of a quick but humorous exchange I had at a beach once just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a bit out of the way and it's got beautiful cliffs on either side and has old forts and bunkers to the south, when we thought we needed to protect the golden strait from invasion.
I had come with a friend, though I can't remember which, to just enjoy the beach and maybe leave with a few sunset shots to keep or to sell.
I took off my shoes as I usually do at the beach, but especially at this beach. It has the coolest rocks. They don't hurt your feet and they do prod and poke, but they're so soft from years and years of crashing waves, they feel amazing. Like a paid service. I said as much to my friend as we crossed the wooden bridge that separates the road from the beach, something about the rocks massaging my feet, and as soon as I did we felt a child zip past us and head excitedly to a group of folks emptying their rented van.
"Take off your shoes - take off your shoes! The beach has massaging rocks!"
We glanced back to see his family obeying. They had gotten a local tip and were ahead of the tourist discovery curve.
We laughed as locals often do, and walked towards the ocean enjoying those very massaging rocks.
So what now
I've got some thinking to do. Although I also have to admit that I'm further along than when I started. I'm further down the rabbit hole that this movie has led me down, and I'm enjoying the journey. I don't need to think yet about bikes right this minute, this year is partly to blame and the bike shortage problem will continue. For more companies than just mine.
I'd rather think about values. About vision. Was I not clear enough back in February of my vision for this run of bikes? It's possible. I felt clear and I thought I was but somewhere we lost nine months to not addressing a difference of vision.
Our country has been neglecting the discussion for far longer.
Today though I just want to enjoy the silence.
I want to listen.