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Island Life

For a number of weeks recently we had our washer and dryer out on the back porch. The reason for this displacement was not as a banishing punishment or as a mini stay-cation to allow the machines a brief outside adventure before the wet of winter made time spent out of doors by objects with electronics an inadvisable alternative. What was happening was that we were almost finished with our long running bathroom repair and remodel, which also involved redoing the wood floors. This was an exercise that surprised me with the sweeping improvements I could muster with a spackling knife, some wood filler for the widening gaps between the white pine flooring, a pair of knee pads and a 3x18” belt sander. With the bathroom mostly complete and the floor in there sanded and coated, it was time to move slightly down the hall on that same, common wood planking to our own private laundromat. The washer and dryer had to get out of the way to allow a thorough scraping and sanding of that floor so as to take advantage of the wave of rejuvenation that was sweeping from the shower stall to just before the hardware hall.

This next move seemed fairly simple, since I had already proven that, with my newly acquired skill set, a new looking floor could emerge from the existing mix of worn, bare wood and darkened finish of 30 years. There was a slight problem though, since the washer had developed a small leak in its front-loading door boot seal, and that had to be fixed before the machines could return to their place of work and rest. There was another thing that I had noticed whilst stooping and hands-and-knees crawling about to do the sanding and swabbing on the finish coating, and that was that it just wasn’t as easy as it used to be to get down to the work position and eventually return to standing. It wasn’t like this was a surprise- it has been getting increasingly harder to do a lot of things. I have known that I really should have been stretching and exercising all along, but it has been getting harder to convince myself to get out and do anything about it. There has also been the increase in mid section girth that has made getting into bike clothes more revealing of my expansion, adding another layer of potential discouragement to my heading out on the open road while feeling self conscious and under motivated. There was also that beer in the fridge that seemed to always be insisting on making things better while not really helping, with its boatload of carbs and calories that I knew (but ignored) was contributing to making matters worse.

There have been two talks lately at the Vashon Center for the Arts that I have been there to both record and listen to- the Bruce and Bob bike thing and, most recently, the talk by Stewart Harvey about Burning Man. The cross country bike trip talk was fascinating, but it did not inspire me to get on my bike and ride. What it did do was remind me how much time can be consumed out on a bike, or in a pool or on a running tail, just getting ready to do a big event. I had thought a lot about what it might take to get ready for a trip of that magnitude, and when I equated that with my current level of unfitness my mind simply shrugged and walked away. It was then that the true weight of a ride like that hit me, not in its entirety, but just the thought of doing repeat 80 mile days seemed now to be out of reach. With the Playa Fire talk, and all the great photos and the insider history that, as the brother of  Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, Stewart was among a small number of people to be privy to, I was again reminded of what I missed about heading to the Nevada desert every end of August. Given a bit more time after the talk, I was also able to recall one of the great myths about the gates to Black Rock City, and that is that once you pass through them you will forever be changed, and that by donning a costume and assuming a playa name that at least for that week you will become someone else. After 11 years there I found that for the most part, whatever parameters guided your life in the so-called default world did not drop from one’s psyche as you were “welcomed home” by playa greeters at the gate, unless you had come to make a change. The gift economy and the sacred ten principles of Burning Man meant pretty much nothing to those who came to party and make the scene.

And so, getting back to the washer and dryer shivering in the cold and wet out on our back porch, the thing that had stalled that project was my inability to get the new boot seal back in place. I had disassembled it all according to several helpful tutorials on the youtubes, but the reality of getting the new one back on was seemingly beyond my doing. It was awkward, tight and maybe even the wrong replacement, so I got another. After what seemed to be hours of wrestling with this new one got me nowhere I considered doing a video of the effects of a six pound splitting mall on an innocent modern metal appliance, but again a nice quiet sit down with a few beers amazingly distracted me from incurring a large replacement expense and perhaps some sort of self-injury. And then there was one morning when I just decided I would make it work, and this time finally adding the suggested dish soap lubricant, everything went back into place and Wendy was happy not to have to go uptown to wash some things that wrastlin’, muddy puppies had soiled earlier that day. And for some reason, having accomplished this, I began to think of other things to conquer.

I do have a trainer that I can put my bike up on and ride inside out of the rain and the cold and the sightlines of the people laughing at that old guy struggling by who has overstuffed his biking lycra. What has kept me from doing that, from riding inside and away from other reasons not to, was a properly shaped skewer that holds my rear tire in place in the back wheel hub, and also fits into the sockets on the trainer. In thinking about it today, I went out to where one of my broken bikes is stashed and found just the skewer that I needed. Sometimes it is not inspiration, but rather removing an impediment to a path to a solution that is all, or most, of what you need. Perhaps if this resolution is firmly in place by New Year’s there will be more room to tuck a few more in under the old belt and see where we can go from there.