I flew back to the States the other week on the 11th. Though I was looking forward to getting back to America, I wasn’t looking forward to getting back to Americans. I’m not sure if Belgians are that much better or nicer or more conscientious than us, but I had very few negative encounters over there. I mean, the only person I hit in a race this year in Belgium was a Japanese rider (he swerved into and elbowed me before the sprint) and even then we both ended up laughing about it later in the showers (though that wasn’t really what I was laughing at). Just kidding. I’m not racist. Some of my best friends have small penises. But anyways, it was so much easier getting along with people when I couldn’t understand them when they spoke. It was nice not knowing what anyone was saying. There were so many fewer arguments to try to win.
I wasn’t even technically in America yet when I had my first negative encounter with one of my countrymen. I went through US customs in the Toronto airport on my way to Portland. I wasn’t even aware this was a thing, and it didn’t seem like anyone else did either because there was a lot of confusion. There was a line to get into the line. I pushed my cart up parallel with the line before the line and began cutting through it to get to my bike bag just to the left of the line, which was sitting in the oversized luggage area. Before I got to my bike some guy said, “excuse me, the line starts back there,” pointing to one person behind him. As if I would cut just two people. At first I thought he was joking and laughed. He didn’t smile back, just glared and shook his head holding up his hands questioning what I was laughing at, why I was still standing there in front of him now looking confused, who I was and where I came from, my societal worth, my moral being, my sense of right and wrong, how many nuns I must have murdered to become this unquestionably horrible, evil human being standing there before him…I could tell all this from the expression on his face. Once I realized he wasn’t joking, and I knew how to handle this perfectly. Perfectly.
I nodded at him, walked six feet to pick up my bike bag, made and held eye contact with him as I walked back to my cart and put my bike on it, stood in front of him as his expression turned sullen and he looked at his feet, and I said, “I bet you feel pretty dumb right now.” I stood there for another couple seconds while he said nothing, and was just about to push my cart off when he said, “Sorry. I’m sorry, I just saw two other people cut so I was just…actually you know what? I DON’T feel dumb.” I told him, “Well you should,” and that’s when the line moved a bit and he pushed his cart forward shaking his head as I laughed.
Now, obviously I know this wasn’t the nicest thing to say or best way to resolve an argument due to miscommunication, but that’s not what I was trying to do. There’s no point in resolving arguments or coming to terms. There’s right and there’s wrong. There’s no middle ground. And I’m right, pretty much ALL the time. So he and everyone else can fuck off. America: one of your own had returned.
The next 45 minutes were pretty damn awkward, since the line we were in crossed back and forth in a square, forcing us to pass each other face-to-face about nine times. The first time we both just looked at each other shaking our heads. I knew he was fuming about it because I was too, plus I’d gotten the last word so I figured he was concocting something to say for the next pass. He got his chance three minutes later and we had round two. I won’t go into the details, but I won. I was on a roll so I started an argument with a customs agent a while later when he said something I felt was condescending.
Ironically, one of the things I’d said to the guy who’d thought I was cutting earlier was that it was people like him that make the rest of the world hate Americans. We hate most in others what we hate in ourselves. If there’s one thing we like to do it’s being right, no matter what, and jamming our ideals, politics, Big Macs, and pop-culture down the rest of the world’s throat. If they don’t like it we’ve got the war machine to back us up. The US is the ring leader bully in fourth grade who’s backed up by his posse, the rest of the first world. Our knuckles and wedgies come in the form of corporate greed, drooling over stocks and pulling on the strings of our puppet government and mass media, designed to convince ourselves that there’s a just reason why we’re in the middle east, why our trade with South America is fair, and that Jersey Shore is newsworthy while 16,000 children starving to death, daily, is not. What’s sad is that we really don’t need these distractions and covers to hide our cruelty, because the worst thing about the first world is that we just don’t care about the third.
It seems that I always have something to rant about, and I don’t want to mislead people into thinking I’m a negative person all the time. It’s just that it’s usually boring to write about how good things are. But on that note I’ll keep a look out for a feel-good, humorous story that brings out the best in humanity and sheds light on the rising global compassion that’s spreading like an incurable disease that leaves you completely paralyzed but still able to feel pain (in fact it’s heightened by 10) and you can’t move at all and are confined to a hospital bed and you have an insatiable desire to scratch yourself since a symptom of the disease is a thick rash that slowly eats your flesh over a period of 60 years and you grow more and more insane every day as you stare up at the white ceiling, confined in your own mind’s torturous prison. Shit. I can’t even do it for one sentence.
When I got back to the States I had a few days to spend with my parents and brothers Galen and Thomas. I went down to Corvallis for the weekend to hang out with Galen at his college and met his new girlfriend, who instigated a huge tomato-throwing fight a bunch of us had in a friend’s garden. We were supposed to be picking vegetables, not throwing tomatoes for hours, but we couldn’t stop, despite the pleas of the guy who owned the garden, who was also throwing tomatoes and also couldn’t stop. You know that saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? This idea revolves around the concept that there are only two sides in a fight. This is not true. Two of the guys eventually ended up getting pissed, wrestling, and breaking through a fence. Galen and I took this opportunity to chuck tomatoes at them as they wrestled on the ground. Two enemies of one another are also my enemies, and when they’re preoccupied fighting each other they make an easy target.
My time in Oregon was short, as I had to get back to Boulder on the 16th to start a new job the following day. Yeah, that’s right a job. I mean like a real job. For most, this would be a time of rejoice, but for me I feel like it’s a bit different. Every time a free-roaming, gypsy cyclist gets a job an angel dies up in Heaven. You may be thinking, “Shit, if Kennett ended up getting a job there must really be no hope left at all.” Well, there isn’t. You should quit your ambitions as a serious cyclist and put that college education to use before the diploma accumulates too much dust.
Nah, just kidding! I’m not giving up the dream just yet. Though it certainly is hard to make a living as a cyclist, I still haven’t ruled it out, though I have changed my perspective on the sport and what it means to be successful. My goal coming into each season used to be to sign with a continental team at the end of the season. My goal wasn’t to win or do well in a particular race. Of course all I dreamed about was winning races. Most rides I’d have a particular race in mind and think about it and the ones following it, dreaming up different scenarios and letting my imagination run with the taste of glory. I’d dream about a single race for hours during a ride, and I still do. But winning races was a means to getting on a team.
My new outlook on things goes like this: continue racing and training just as hard as before, target specific races that suit me and be 100% peaked and rested for them, and that’s it. I still want to win races and get on a conti team, but if I can continue racing the NRC and other good regional races and train hard up in the mountains, then I’m happy. I think the job will actually inspire me to make some beneficial changes, and having money won’t be too bad either.
The office of Smartetaling is just 1.5 miles away from my new apartment where I live with my roommate, Kim, from the place I was living before out on Arapahoe. Smartetaling is a company that writes about bikes, wheels, other bike parts, accessories, clothing, etc. for a gigantic online catalogue that thousands of bike shops across the country use. So basically my job is to write about bikes. Not bad eh? The office has 13 of us in total, all cyclists, all witty and super sarcastic, so I feel right at home already. On Thursday all of us went on a two-hour ride during lunch break. It was originally going to be an “Uphill Thursday Throw Down,” but got tweaked since there were three of us new people and doing Super Flag wouldn’t be the best way to make good introductions. But we did do a few small hills. I told myself I didn’t need to be first up it, and started a bit off the back with a couple slower riders by the time we got to the first climb. I could see up the road that the throwing down had begun, despite the suggestion by our boss, Will, that today might be good day for just a slow, casual ride to get to know one another. Well, in a cyclist’s opinion, there’s no better way to get to know someone than by putting the hurt on them, and by the looks of things, Will knew this too as he was the main culprit shredding the group apart. I couldn’t be last, so I passed a few guys. Then I passed some more, then pretty soon I decided to catch up the Will who was up front by himself at this point. I rode next to him, unsure if it would be wise to drop my new boss on the second day of work. So instead I just half wheeled him the rest of the way. Haha, just kidding sort of. It definitely felt great to be back riding in Boulder and I can honestly say that every single one of my coworkers is cool. I couldn’t ask to find a better set up, as the job is flexible and will allow me to train during the week, race the NRC schedule, and mot importantly everyone there is super chill. They’re all cyclists after all. It reminds me of the banter that I had with my teammates on Hagens Berman.
Speaking of Hagens Berman, I am no longer with the team. I knew this would be may last year with them at the beginning of the season, since it was my third year with them, which is a fair time limit since the goal of the team is to have a good turn-over rate and develop new guys. Well, in my opinion HB accomplished its mission with me as I’m definitely not the rider I was when I first joined the team. I’m super grateful of everyone that was a part of the team and the amazing sponsorship that allowed me to race as much as I did and provide the organization that’s required do get to quality races, work as a unit, not just a smattering of individuals like a lot of amateur teams do, and go head-to-head with the best in the country. Later, in the next week or two, I’ll have a big post about Hagens Berman and everyone that’s been a part of it since I joined in 2010.
Speaking of ear wax, I finally went in to see the doctor and get my ears checked up. I’ve had ear aches/itching for months now. Basically ever since 2008. It comes and goes, always with both ears at the same time, and they’ve been bothering me pretty bad since last November. At first the doctor said it just looked like some built-up wax, no ear infection. The nurse poured in some hydrogen peroxide to loosen it up, then used a big plastic syringe thing and flushed out about 600 grams of wax from my left ear alone. He made a big fuss at one point when something extra special came out and said, “You’re gonna want to see this.” I looked in the plastic container thing that my ear drainage was pouring into and I almost threw up. There was an enormous amount of greenish-yellow ear wax floating in the water, and one BIG chunk of dark brown hard wax that the nurse said had probably been in there for a long time. When the other ear was done the doctor came back and she looked in my ears a second time, this time saying, “Oh wow, yeah you do have an ear infection. Both ears actually. And you have fluid trapped behind your eardrum in your left year. It must be painful. Does it hurt when you pull down on your earlobe?” I said I guess, though I couldn’t remember a time when it didn’t. I’m using an antibiotic ear drop for the next week and it already cleared up so I’ll probably just stop using it now, since that’s what you’re supposed to do with antibiotics. You don’t want too much of em, just one or two doses to whet your appetite, sort of like doughnuts.
I had more stories to tell but I’m tired of writing so I’ll just end it there.