The Glorious Century

I rode the Portland Century yesterday. It took me out the back way, pulled out nearly 1100 feet of elevated whup-ass and beat me like a Michael Jackson video for about 7 hours. My riding partner was my castmate, Jeff.


Waiting in Line.

Me: Look at all these people.
Jeff: The guy said that there are five times as many people here as they expected.
Me: That's cool.
Jeff: These guys are pretty hardcore.
Me: Yeah.
Jeff: They got the spandex get-up and everything.
Me: Well, if you're into that sort of thing.
Jeff: I'm just wearing jogging shorts.
Me: It gets the job done.
Jeff: Probably be just fine.
Me: You know, I've got an extra pair of padded cycling shorts if you want them.
Jeff: Hm. Maybe I'll take you up on that.
Me: It feels like you're wearing diapers for a bit, but then you get used to it.
Jeff: It obviously works for all these guys.
Me: Well, if you're into that sort of thing.


Mile 1

Me: Okay, the map says we start at the Hawthorne Bridge.
Jeff: But the bridge is up.
Me: Oh.
(Time passes.)
Me: It's not going down.
Jeff: Nope.
Me: Let's go another way.


Mile 5

Jeff: Well, I think we're back on the course now.
Me: Yeah, I think so.
Jeff: Oh, look, there are other guys with tags and things.
Me: Cool.


Mile 10. The First Rest Stop.

Me: Ooh, the rest stops have peanut butter! And jelly! Peanut butter and jelly!


Mile 14

Jeff: I don't see anyone else.
Me: That's because we're so fast.
Jeff: Uh-oh. It's already 10:30.
Me: Well, we'll pick up a bit after this. Remember, we had all those streets and things. And we kind of made up that first bit.
Jeff: Sure.
Me: Look, bluebirds!


Mile 18

Me: So, do you think the tree grew in the barn, and then pushed it's way out the roof, or do you think the roof collapsed and then the tree flourished?
Jeff: Hmmmm.


Mile 20

Me: Well, that was a hill.
Jeff: Yup.
Me: Think there's more of them?
Jeff: Probably one or two. The guide said there wouldn't be too many of 'em.


Mile 21

Me: Uh-oh.
Jeff: Yeah.


Mile 22

Me: Strong like Ox!!
Jeff: .


Mile 23

Me: Thanks for waiting for me.
Jeff: No problem.


Mile 24

Jeff: Where the hell are we?
Me: .


Mile 25

Me: You tuck your knees and your elbows in and you hunch down over the handlebars, and it's more aerodynamic that way.
Jeff: You're crazy.


Mile 26

Me: Oh no!
Jeff: We can do it, just keep climbing, keep climbing!
Me: [gutteral, whimpering sound of dismay]


Mile 26.5

Me: I think we're in Ohio now.


Mile 27. The Second Rest Stop.

Me: What do you mean THERE'S NO MORE PEANUT BUTTER!?!?!
Some Guy at the Rest Stop: Well, I guess people ate it all already.
Jeff: But we haven't seen hardly anybody else on the ride.
SGatRS: That's because they all passed through before you.
Me: What do you mean they all...?
SGatRS: Well, they didn't want to get caught in the noon heat.
Jeff: [looks at me].
Jeff: Well, at least we're all done with the hills.
SGatRS: That's right.
Me: Yeah, thank goodness.
SGatRS: Sure.
Jeff: I mean, the guide said there'd be a couple of hills, but those were nasty.
SGatRS: Yup. No more hills. Except for that one.
Jeff: What?
Me: [drops banana]
Jeff: But isn't that in Washington?
SGatRS: Nope. No. No. Not quite.
Jeff: Well, but aren't we just going to the river...?
SGatRS: Certainly. And the river is just on the other side of that ridge.

[Time passes]

Jeff: Ready to go?
Me: [Eyeing beautiful British cycling girl in black riding tights with freckles on her shoulders] Not really. But okay.


Mile 27.1

Me: Oh my.
Jeff: .
Me: [humming Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."]


Mile 27.2

Jeff: Well, that has to be the end of it.
Me: distantly ...don't stop be-lieeeving...


Mile 27.3

Jeff: Okay, That's Just Wrong.
Me: But you said that was the--that there weren't gonna be any more--oh no.


Mile 27.4

Me: I'm just going to stop for a sec.
Jeff: Okay.
Me: Just for a sec.
Jeff: I'm out of water already.
Me: Where the hell are we?


Mile 29

Me: Thanks for waiting.
Jeff: No problem.


Mile 34

Me: Strong like Ox!
Jeff: It's not my legs so much as my butt. My butt really hurts.
Me: My leg keeps twitching. See?
Jeff: That can't be good.
Me: At least you're wearing the padded cycling shorts. Think how much your butt would hurt if you weren't.
Jeff: I actually don't really want to think about my butt anymore than I have to right now.


Mile 37

Me: Well, this is more like it.
Jeff: If it stays like this, we can make up for lost time.
Me: Those grandmothers keep passing us.
Jeff: Yes, but the important thing is that we keep passing them, too.
Me: They don't call it the granny-gear for nothing.
[A hill appears.]
Jeff: Uh-oh.
Me: Don't say that.
Jeff: But it doesn't look like it's curving down.
Me: Oh no.


Mile 41

Me: I haven't seen anyone else from our ride since the grandmothers passed us.
Jeff: I know.
Me: Do you think we missed the next Rest Stop already?
Jeff: I was wondering that. I hope not.
Me: Me too.


Mile 44

Jeff: Okay, that hill has to be the last one before the river. It has to be.
Me: I say we stop at that mini-mart and fill up our water bottles again before we tackle that hill.
Jeff: Yeah.

[At the Mini-Mart]

Me: I'm just saying, if push comes to shove, we can use the bus tickets.
Jeff: Sure.
Me: I'm not admitting defeat or anything.
Jeff: Well, you did brag about this to a bunch of people.
Me: If push comes to shove.
Jeff: If push comes to shove, we could take a left there and be at my house.
Me: True.
Jeff: I didn't brag about this, you did.
Me: True.


Mile 46

Jeff: There's the freeway.
Me: Look, the mountain is right there.
Jeff: Wow.
Me: But how do we get to that road? And where's our Rest Stop?
Jeff: What does the map say?
Me: The map... is not being helpful.


Mile 50

Another Cyclist Passing Us Who Isn't On the Same Ride: Are you guys on the Portland Century?
Me: ...yeah....
ACPUWIOtSR: Didn't that start early this morning?
Me: Yeah.
ACPUWIOtSR: Wow. How's it going?
Me: 'sokay.


Mile 54. The Last Rest Stop.

Guy at the Last Rest Stop: Hey! There's a Rest Stop here!
Me: [guttural exclamation of relief]
Jeff: And they have water!
Me: And peanut butter! And jelly!
GatLRS: Are you the last riders?
Me: Um.
Jeff: Probably.
GatLRS: They told me that the last rider would come by to tell me that he's the last one and I can close up.
Jeff: They told you that?
GatLRS: Yeah.
Jeff: But how would the last rider know that he's the last?
GatLRS: I think he set out after everybody else did, or something.
Me: Sounds like that knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Jeff: Who's that guy? Are you a rider, too?
That Guy: Yeah. I'm waiting for the sweep van.
Me: Sweep Van?
GatLRS: The van that goes around picking up mechanical failures, cyclists in distress...
Jeff: ...corpses...
That Guy: It's just too hot. I'm not going any further. I'm throwing in the towel and waiting for the van.

[Time passes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are consumed.]

Me: Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah?
Me: I'm just going to put this out there... Maybe we should think about... Just for a second, maybe we should think about riding back on the Sweep Van.
Jeff: Hm.
Me: We're more than halfway there.
Jeff: Yes.
Me: It's getting pretty hot.
Jeff: Yes. But it's mostly downhill from here, right?
Me: That's what the map says. But we both know this map is pretty tricky.
Jeff: Unreliable.
Me: In the sense that it lies outright, with palpably malicious intent.
Jeff: Yes.
Me: And there's no shame. No shame in being safe. We've got Tech Week coming up.
Jeff: Right.
Me: It's not the Van of Shame. It's the Van of Glory.


Riding Back on the Van of Glory

Me: Remember everyone, heads held high. It's the Van of Glory.
Others on the Van: Yes. Right. That's right. Glory.
Me: We just didn't want to show off. No sense in making everyone else look bad by finishing the whole thing. Best to let them think they're better than us for this one tiny bit. And besides, 54 miles--that's like 100 kilometers, right?
OotV: That's right!
Me: So we still completed the whole Century! And we get to ride the Van of Glory, no less.



Spoiler warning: Self-pity and introspective angst ahead. Those inclined to wonder after my emotional health are advised to skip to the cheerier posts below.


A quiet, little eensy sadness sits on me these days. It is entirely unrelated to the splendor of rehearsals, or the rigors of working my personally fulfilling (if economically and perhaps spiritually impoverishing) dayjob. It is a sadness of discontent, culled from an enduring loneliness and a general dissatisfaction with the direction of my life and times. Nothing more than the usual business, really. But because I am a thoughtful person, and one who blogs from time to time, I feel obliged to dwell on these things when they arise.

Recent personal catastrophes tend to indicate that I will never find a lover in the true sense. My imperfections have hardened, and my instinctive predisposition for isolation has only grown over the years, especially after recent experience. I grow more and more convinced of the gravity of my failings--in the sense that there is much I find wanting in myself, and this must be taken as a positive motive for growth and change, accomplishment and service--but to be convinced of those failings is to have no great love for them, and I do believe it to be true that, for someone to love you, you must first love yourself. But how do you love that which hurts you? Especially when that hurt is of your own substance?

Things become only the more difficult when you can see and feel the presence of affection all around you. I tend to construct masks of reciprocal affection only for their sake, all of whom truly are caring and loving and lovely individuals, quite worthy of affection and respect. But it would be more accurate to call this an affectionate distancing, tendering to others what is due to them, rather than for the sake of myself and my own longings. And this is never meant dishonestly or as a disservice to others, though in truth it may very well be such things. Rather, it represents, in all honesty, the utmost of what I can possibly offer.

It is all an extraordinarily complicated neurosis, which, I assure you, I really would rather not have to deal with, but it's here and I am thus compelled.

I have found isolation to be a cold comforter, by virtue of its simplicity, its clarity. Because we are all of us multitudes within our solitary selves, roiling and tumultuous with memories and passions and fears and dreams, griefs and tendernesses, and it is a minor miracle that I or any of us ever get out of bed in the morning. It's true that sometimes it's a miracle I'm unable to work.


I ride the Portland Century in a few hours. You may expect more characteristically buoyant tales of glory and mischief shortly.




Bacchic Hula Hips

For my first entrance in this play, I emerge in billowing robes and an astonishing mask, playing the god Bacchus. I even get grapes in my hair and beautiful horns.

Aside from the requisite stuff about messing with mortals and instigating the story, Bacchus is there, basically, to make a grand entrance, and to really introduce the audience to the convention of masked deities making appearances all over the place. So my director called for a bit of flair, some style and punch to highlight the event. To which I can only reply, "I live to serve".

The music and the lights on the pool will heighten things a bit, too, which is good because right now I am entering, in my mask and robes, quite frankly hula-hooping my hips in time to a swaying beat step. The pace is slow and long like taffy, and I am proportionally self-conscious and abashed, blushing and grinning in my mask both at once. Every time we rehearse this scene my castmates and I shake with laughter. My scene partners giggle and stumble their way through this bit.

We've got two weeks to previews and we're in fine form, doing full runs already--something I've almost never been able to say in all my experience. I can't wait to get in the water.




Annual Bridge Pedal Triumph.

Here are some pictures of the latest Providence Bridge Pedal here in Portland.

The Annual Bridge Pedal is one of the things I love the most about Portland. You really haven't lived until you've zoomed down the Interstate on a Bianchi touring bike with not a single automotive vehicle in sight.




PJ looks a lot like one of my troll puppets from my recent "Red Mare" tour. He's all knobs and bumps, with half-tinted aviator sunglasses and a dirty old SF Giants baseball cap. His beard is red and thick and crusty, he's got a bum leg and he speaks in a glowing, gravelly growl.

I took my residents to a baseball game at PGE Park last weekend. We made for an eclectic bunch; misfits, formerly homeless, disabled veterans, freaks and social castaways, tentatively navigating shoals of Portland's fashionably petty bourgieousie. They instinctively made a path for our garrulous, slightly pungent little gang. I felt like Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen.

I spent $60 on hot dogs and soda for the group, and then we crept down the bleachers to seats a little bit closer to the field than the ones donated to us (PGE Park is almost never more than 1/3 full). Once there, we took in a nice, long baseball game, the first I'd ever attended.

PJ is what made the game for me. He once coached and ump'd Little League baseball. He comes fully equipped with a colorful wit and an impressively resonant diaphragm, so when he wants to take apart the players or the umpires, the whole stadium looks sideways at us.


Whether he was mocking the umpire's strike calls or heckling the nervy, pint-sized pitcher, or diving for a stray fly ball, PJ absolutely dominated the game. If I'm Lee Marvin, PJ is Ernest Borgnine.





The Silk Sea--How I Became a Theatre Marine

It's hard to articulate just how much I love rehearsing this show. First week of rehearsals has me in paroxysms of delight, transports of sheer exhileration. The cast is magnificent, the director commands the heavens, the theatre is on fire with energy and talent, and my old friend the Silk Sea is back.

I first befriended the Silk Sea when I was eighteen or nineteen years old. I was in a doughty little production of "Pericles" down in the Bay Area, one of a handful of males imported by this same director for a production under the auspices of an all-girls' preparatory school. I stayed in a storybook cottage under the brow of a long ridge in the Marin peninsula, with a daybreak view of the fogbound City of San Francisco just outside my window. My days were spent in the libraries of the City, on my bike or on the buses, and my afternoons and evenings were spent rehearsing a beautiful, scrappy production.

One day, maybe 1/3 of the way through the process, Randall handed me a sheaf of directions. I was entrusted with an extremely important mission; he had custom-ordered a massive quantity of light blue silk to be fashioned into a vast, rolling sea, more than enough to fill the surface area of the floor of a large, ancient barn-cum-theatre, where we were performing. I don't know how to describe how large this Sea was in its beginnings; it was endless, it was Olympic-sized, it was the kind of big that makes everything and everyone else standing next to it look poky and unassuming by comparison. Balled up very tightly, it was about the size of my torso.

To find it, I boarded something like 7 different buses to get from my tucked-away cottage to downtown San Francisco. I walked up the rickety, narrow staircases of a dozen old Victorian office/warehouse edifices in the Tenderloin/Nob Hill stretch, following a trail of breadcrumbs and the bemused assistance of potbellied shopkeepers, world-weary immigrant store clerks, liveried doormen, angry young bike messengers and the ghosts of Barbary Coast pirates before I found the place I was sent to find.

Inside the crumbling belly of a dark and sooty old Beaux-Arts monster, I stumbled into a cave of musty and shrouded wonders. Like spiders perfumed with mothballs, a shadowy little herd of lesbian seamstresses with exotic and implacable accents ushered me past the bolts of rich, deep velvets and the ghostly mannequins painted with translucent saffrons and the elegantly billowing herringbone patterns masking the distant skylights, into an inner sanctum where an ancient and wizened little old spinster was stitching snaps into the opened seams of the Sea. Randall had specified that the Sea was to have three openings from which people could reach out and pop up from beneath its surface, and the little old spinster muttered the whole time about how strange that little man was (I think she was talking about Randall).

Her task finished, she laboriously gathered up the vast Sea into a compact shape (my torso), which she passed to the lesbian spider seamstress, who passed it to me. Papers and signatures were exchanged, seals were affixed, messages were inscribed, and soon enough I was back outside in the brilliant Bay Area sunlight. I remember a stiff headwind, and barely being able to see above the top of the Silk Sea, gushing out of the bursting shrinkwrap. Then there was some heartstopping swordplay against whole regiments of French musketeers, followed by a breakneck sprint across the rooftops chased by SWAT-team snipers, and then I lashed myself to the mast of my galley while I sailed past the Sirens and other sea-monsters, and then the guy let me get on the ferry even though my transfer was expired, and I made it to rehearsal with minutes to spare. (I'm exaggerating: I had to buy a new transfer.)

That evening the Silk Sea unfolded for the first time, and I experienced the first of what was to become many, many collective gasps of beholding. Since that time the Sea has waxed and waned, separated into several Seas and then reunited; its openings have torn and been re-stitched and then torn again; casts have come and gone, sometimes dozens strong, sometimes only five or six of us. I've been privileged to perform with this Sea in most of its incarnations. I've watched the stains and the dust and the tears in the Sea come and go. I am so happy to be swimming in it again.

And that's how I became a Theatre Marine.