Friday, July 18, 2014

My Bicycle, the Long Haul Trucker

A few months ago... I bought this:

Long Haul Trucker

The first time I was ever exposed to the Surly Long Haul Trucker was through one of my best friends Aaron Green. He, with one of our other close friends rode one of these across the country in 2008. Upon their return, I was able to take a closer look at his bicycle. At that moment, it became the bicycle of my dreams.

The LHT is a no frills bike built for the purpose of moving anything you can mount on it. This bicycle is so beefy. The chromoly steel frame and fork make for a really comfortable ride. I've ridden into really bumpy asphalt, potholes, gravel, and the bike takes it without any problems. The rims and tires help a lot with that too. I feel at times that I can just ride over most anything without having to worry.

When I bought the bike, it came with Velo Orange Fenders, Surly Racks (front and rear), Silver Bar End Shifters, new cables, Shimano XT Brakes, and Cane Creek SCR-5 Brake Levers... basically, I bought it all set up awesomely. Obviously, the former owner of the bike is awesome. All it was missing was this:

Brooks B17 Saddle Long Haul Trucker

The Brooks B17 Saddle... After purchasing the bike, the first modification I made to it was to buy this saddle. A few days later, I dropped by the West End Bike shop and asked if they had any extra chains and inner tubes lying around. One of the guys said yes and helped me rig the chain to the bottom of the saddle.

The Review

The Good
The Long Haul Trucker is a truly solid bike. You can mount almost anything to it, the clearance for panniers is really great. Its the kind of bike you could ride across the United States, or just ride down the street to get groceries with. Its paint job is powder coated, doesn't chip, it takes some effort to even actually scratch the frame. Makes for a great touring and commuting bicycle.

The Not So Bad
There's really not that much to say about what this bicycle isn't lacking. The chainstay clearance and wheel base proportion does make turns a little on the wide side, however this doesn't mean that this bike isn't nimble, I've made some ridiculous turns on this. Its a bit on the heavy side... this bike does hold a lot of stuff... a lot. Speaking of heavy, I believe this bike is about 40lbs, maybe less. I have to carry this bicycle up and down three flights of stairs everytime I choose to ride it, and its totally worth it.

Overall
Surly makes great bicycles. Their brand speaks into every bicycle they produce. Surly owners tend to have a nod in passing to other Surly owners. I like to call this the "Surly Nod." Its akin to the nod a bearded man gives to another bearded man. On the road, this bicycle demands respect. Everyday, I get on this bike, it gets respect. I find myself looking for reasons to ride bike.

Every time I ride this bike, I'm thankful.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Heading and the Wind

I imagine coming into the world. With light shining through my eyelids, eyes burning, perceiving light for the first time, not having words for what it is. Being helpless, yet, not knowing it; being in pain, yet, not knowing it; being loved, yet, not knowing it.

I imagine growing up, being guided through school. Gathering words to articulate feelings I haven't felt, learning new things about the larger world beyond me. Wanting to play and yet, be left alone. Being told what it is to have a successful life. Being pushed, molded -- casted.

I imagine finding out the cast wasn't made for my material, my being. How the path of high school, college, and a career didn't quite fit my heart. Feeling disconnected from those who had followed a path that I didn't take... then eventually reconciling differing lives. Feeling unbecoming.

The switch. I imagine graduating from high school, going into college, getting a good job, moving up the ladder, moving to another career, falling in love, getting married, moving out of an apartment, getting a condo, getting in debt, selling the condo, moving into a house, having a child, having a dog... having all these things because I followed a path. Yet, I didn't.

Aaron Delani in Portland

Things don't always happen the way I plan. I guess it doesn't help that I haven't planned anything in a long while. I recently moved to Portland Oregon. The thought of moving to Portland, living in Portland never really crossed my mind until one of my friends invited me to live up here.

So I made a move. Tried finding a job in a trying market, which at times left me feeling helpless and despaired. Being away from my family and friends was wearisome as well; and although I never wondered "why I am here?" always thinking to myself, "I am here, and this is what I'm going to do." I can't say that this journey hasn't had its difficulties... its all been burdensome... but I've never been happier.

Being on my own feels like being born into a world I was somewhat familiar with, and the light shone through my eyelids still burned; I could hear the world I was to be a part of in my mother's womb, then being born with all the deafening audacity of the world booming into my ears. Being born is dissonant freedom, as is independence. Independence for me meant to have a willingness to pursue living. To be unguided and humbly seek guidance, to think and do by will and choice. Pursuing a being outside of me, I prayed for a direction, prayed for a way to make things possible... prayed to discover what the hell I'm doing with my life. Prayed to live, only to discern I was only surviving... and that is only enough.

I guess this is what you call a transition.

The Heading, the Wind

My life at times feels as though its a book writing itself. At times, I feel as though a minor character in my own story. At times, I've become the voice, the narrator in my own life telling myself what has happened, then giving insight to this unlikely protagonist with the voice of Morgan Freeman.

I've seen myself I've become the person whom I've cheered for in movies, hoping I survive the tale. These parts of the story usually take place when I'm faced with uncertainty and odds against my will. I'm not a hero, not even in my own story... and yet, I cheer, hoping that I will make it through... then polarizing myself at times as the villain, the victim, or the erroneous judge.

I imagine myself as a vessel at times, for all my hopes, my dreams; floating on the ocean without a heading being and thrust by the wind. Everything about who I am is in this ship, lost in a vast and desolate ocean.

I imagine that there is a crew on this ship. My family, my friends, those most dear to me. They've become a part of me, they've reflected to me who I've become and sometimes who I was. They tell me to steer. They tell me to lookout ahead. They support me, they raise my sails. The vessel moves as I catch the wind.

Without them in love and loyalty, life in the vessel would be so bleak. There would be no room for love or companionship. There'd be no use for drink, or food, or art... there'd be no use in screaming "BEAUTY, BEAUTY, I CAN SEE IT IN FRONT OF ME; CAN YOU?!" Joy would be the whisper of the narrator in my mind saying, "beauty, beauty, it is." In many ways, everything I would need to survive is on this ship.

Twenty seven years on the water, finally, I'm realizing what courage and bravery means. I've casted my sail, not knowing where I would go. As my vessel moves, I scour the ship to find out what is missing for me to live. In the vessel I find empty boxes; and its terrifying to know something may be missing. Of all the words I've learned, bravery has felt like the one that often eludes me. Bravery to me is what it feels like to pursue the void despite the odds and courage is knowing how treacherous the journey can be, yet continuing to adventure to seek the missing. This is my heading, despite the wind.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mom, Dad, and 40 Years

Mom and Dad

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a portrait of my mom and dad... today, they've been together for 40 years, I couldn't be more blessed. I can't even imagine how they raised us four siblings and not have gone crazy for it. My brother, sisters, and I turned out okay... So I'm pretty sure they're doing something right.

Family

Their encouragement throughout the years has been seeing their love for each other, and love for us kids could overcome even the most terrible arguments. They raised us kids to be both independent and family oriented; a bittersweet dichotomy of us all moving on, moving apart from each other as a family divided tethered together ties of love.

Family

I see them with my nieces and nephews and how much love they show to them, and every time I see this, I remember them doing the same with me and my siblings. My mother, the steadfast; my father, the playful one. Taking turns with playing with the little ones.

I'd be lucky to even have half of the affection my parents have for each other; or meet someone who I somehow can't live without. They've set the bar pretty high.

I love them both, even when they're far away.

Edit: they dated for 6 years and have been married for 40 years.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Literally Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Lately has been somewhat crazy. I'm working on some freelance stuff while trying to build a portfolio, cool stuff is coming down the pipeline. Its just a strange place to be. I'm doing quite okay with most things right now, yesterday was somewhat different. After the Lent service, I started thinking about my work, and what I've done with my life so far. I asked myself a few questions like, "am I proud of the work I've done?"

I mean, existential crisis are somewhat of a normal thing for me nowadays. I contemplated a few more things as I worked from the park yesterday. I feel busy at times, and sometimes, not busy enough. I don't really know how I will make ends meet at times, and sometimes I have great ideas that I do want to purse. Money is a horrible issue. Then I just continued to work.

On my way back to my car, I stopped. I knelt near these flowers just to touch them, smell them. They didn't smell like anything, I took a deep breath... everything is going to be okay.

Flowers

Its time to keep working.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dead Bird Story

The following is a short story.

It was 2004, I was 17, and at the time I was going to Gilbert East High School in Anaheim, this was a continuing education school. If you’ve never heard of what a continuing education school is — well, for the most part — the school that I was going to, most of my school mates were in gangs, drugs, pregnant, or just failing in their high school career and trying to get their high school diploma. Now, I don’t do drugs, I was never pregnant, nor was I ever in a gang. I was only there because prior to my schooling in here in America, I was in the Philippines, and in the Philippines we don’t have Jr. High, without Jr. High, I was missing two grade levels worth of school credits to be in a “normal” school. I was a pretty average student, but for the school, to have an average kid meant that they actually had a kid who stood out from the rest, which is somewhat ironic to me, because I was a lousy student. I didn’t like homework, nor did I do it, I fell asleep in most of my classes … come to think of it, maybe I did belong in that school.

So, that year before the summer break, I was told that the assistant principal wanted to meet with me about an upcoming opportunity. I walked into her office, which was a room surrounded by movable walls, the whole school was like this. The facility seemed to be a warehouse that was converted into a multipurpose conference facility, then converted into a school, all the walls were movable, the ceiling was painted black, fluorescent lights illuminated every room, stale air circulated the dusty vents, it was quite a depressing place. I sit down and the assistant principal asks me, “how are you?” I replied quickly, “I’m doing well; I’m glad you asked to meet with me because I wouldn’t have to be in class.” I smiled, then she smiled back and proceeded, “… well, the reason why I wanted to meet with you was because I was wondering if you’d like to be in a summer program?” I replied, “Sure, I don’t have any summer plans. What’s this (summer program) about?” “… oh, its called The Summer Leadership Academy, we’d like for you to represent our school …”

The Summer Leadership Academy was an Anaheim Union High School District program created to inspire higher education in the arts for students who were already achiving academically in so many other subjects. The program was crafted to teach and mentor students to become leaders and use art appreciation as a way to articulate beauty. Since I was going to a continuing ed school, the school district and I played the "underpriveledged troubled kid" card to get me into the program.

So the spring semester had ended, summer rolled around and I was on my way to the first day of the summer program. The school district decided that the continuing ed facility would make the perfect place to hold the summer program. It didn’t really change my daily commute. I take two busses, one off Ball Rd. and State College Blvd., then the next is the stop off Euclid, then take a bus from Euclid to Lincoln. On a typical commute to school, I see familiar faces on the bus, look out the window and just spend time in thought. While waiting at a bus stop, I usually just sit there, maybe sketch or think about the schoolwork I choose not to do. But that first day, something was different.

I finally arrived at the school, I saw parents dropping off their kids. Many of whom were Asian. I thought nothing of it until I walked into the facility and felt like I was tricked into some sort of “Young Asian Leadership Conference.” But the sprinkle of white and latino kids, and the single token black kid eased my mind and made me think otherwise. I was surrounded by a diverse group smart kids, all from different backgrounds. A hundred or so of us sat in a room, with the class desks formed in a semi-circle. There was an opening speech for the overview of the program… then they opened the floor for any student to speak.

The point of opening the floor to students in the beginning was to encourage students to share an idea, or an experience. They would use that time for those who were so inclined, to be known by the group. That morning, I was preoccupied by the memory of my commute just fourty minutes ago. It felt like an experience that would have such an impact on my life, and change my perception about mortality; you know, typical morning thoughts. I zoned out for a moment when they opened the floor for one of us to share. It was quiet … I have no idea what came over me, but, I took it upon myself to break the silence; I felt confident about what was on my mind, I was about to break the ice. Inside of me, it felt a ship in my chest that nothing was going to stop. Little did I know, I was the Titanic, on its maiden voyage.

So, I raised my hand and said, “I have something to share.” Everyone looked over at me, the captain. One of the teachers asked me to stand infront of the whole group. As I was walking toward the front of the group, I realized I was about to share an experience so fresh, so raw, I could only but serve it to them on a silver platter, rare, knife and fork, with a garnish of parsley on the side. I thought to myself, “Oh man, I hope I don’t make anyone cry.” I finally reach the front of the room, standing there with a whiteboard behind me, a hundred or so strangers looking at me, anticipating my speech in boredom. The carpet was rough under me, and the air was as stale as my prior semesters there; I look into the crowd, I see one kid writing in their calendar, a few others were looking through the packets of paper that were handed out earlier. I started speaking …

“… So, this morning, on my way here, I was sitting at the bus stop thinking about the last time I sat there, there was a breakfast place behind me, I heard a rustling and looked back and saw a rat run from the trashcan behind the restaurant then into the restaurant through the rain gutter…”

I heard a few chuckles in the crowd. I continued to tell my story,

“… so I’m sitting there at the bus stop today and I noticed something in front of me, it was a bird.”

A few smiles awknowledged some interest in the case of the bird…

“… but it wasn’t directly in front of me where I was sitting, it was on the street.”

I hear a sound of concern from the group, even one voice exclaiming, “Oh no.”

“… I’m staring at this tiny little bird’s body and I think about how sad it is. The bird could have had a little bird family, maybe it was out gathering little bird food for its tiny bird kids then got hit by a car mid flight swooping to capture a tiny flying insect. So I started sketching it.”

Laughter. I was a little confused by that response, I guess people don’t normally just pull out their sketch book and start drawing a dead bird — I continued,

“… so I’m observing the corpse of this little bird, and I notice that its little bird body was breathing very faintly, then its eyes opened. I realized that this bird is alive and I was in a situation where I needed to save this little bird’s life! There was no question about that, but I didn’t know what to do… the first thing to come into mind was that I needed to get this little bird out of the street. How terrible would it be to be run over by a car changing lanes, already gasping for air, facing my impending mortality. So I grabbed a sheet of paper from my binder…”

Loud laughter…

“… but the avian flu was going around or something, so I didn’t want to touch it …”

Louder laughter, I really still don’t understand what’s funny, so I continue …

“… so I grabbed another sheet of paper and I scooped the little bird up; then I was faced with another issue, which was, ‘what do I do next?’ I’m headed here to the Summer Leadership Academy, if I called Animal Services, I’d be late …”

Laughter, and I think I know why, no one wants to be late for the first day of the Summer Leadership Academy because of a bird.

“… and it was a very conflicting moment in my life thus far. There I was, bird in hand, I mean, paper — standing there. I didn’t know what to do, so I made a little box for the bird and I placed it in the safest place I could think of at that moment — under the bench. The bus arrived, I got on and tried telling the bus driver, but all that could come out of my mouth was, ‘DEAD BIRD!’ The driver looked at me with confusion, I swiped my pass and sat down. I stared at the bird as we drove away. Then I thought to myself, would it have been better for the bird if I left it on the street? Have I just prolonged the pain and misery this little bird was experiencing?! What have I done?!”

At this point of the story, a few people were crying in laughter.

“… I guess I just wanted to share my experience this morning with this little bird and mortality.”

A few more bits of laughter and chuckles continued as I proceeded back to my seat. One of the other teachers said emphatically while smiling awkwardly, “Oh, wow, thanks for sharing Aaron.” I sat down thinking about what had just happened, their reaction to the story, whether or not it was wrong what I did that morning or if it was really at all humerous. My worries about making someone cry became a real concern as I looked at the kids who were wiping away their tears of laughter. The steak I served was apparently raw and delicious, it brought some happiness as fleeting as life itself. I was both the Titanic and the captain, and I took these kids on a proverbial voyage, colliding with mortality and ethics, sinking the ship with joy filled laughter.

To this day, I have no idea what was funny about the story. Maybe as kids, we don’t know what to do death, so laughter could be the only response. But maybe I’m wrong, although I can imagine my colleagues and I going to that little bird’s funeral, surrounded by the little bird’s family, with silence and boredom as our solice, the bird’s casket made of the flimsy lined paper box. I come up to give a eulogy, speak of this little bird’s love for his family, his final breaths, what he tought me about death … then the laughter from my colleagues, but instead of continuing the eulogy, I stop. I stop and raise my voice and say, “How dare you laugh about this poor bird’s plight.” Then I start laughing. We’re all going to hell.

Perhaps hindsight is 20/20, I look back at that program. The friends I’ve made there, and one particular good friend who didn’t laugh at the story. She and I are friends to this day; and in the end, most everyone who was there remembers the bird story and how they laughed. I still like to think that after I had placed the bird there, under the bench, that it would have regained its strength, flown home to its family. Its little bird wife chirping at him, “You look terrible, what happened?“ His chirping reply, “… I almost died today.“