My Dad & biking make life feel safer

man-on-racing-bikeMy father, Sanford Cleveland Kahrmann,  taught me how to ride a bicycle. To this day, when I’m on my bike, he is present. And for me, when my father is present, all the world feels safer. Anything with his presence helped heal the wounds of the day. Today, Saturday May 2, will be first time on the bike this year.

My father died at unexpectedly when he was 55 from peritonitis. I was 15. While we never got to be adult father and son, adult friends, we were friends. I absolutely reject the notion that parents and their children can’t be friends. Rubbish. If you become friends with a family member, the friendship is all the more sacred, and stronger.

I learned how to ride a bike on Buchanan Street in Pearl River, New York. My first two-wheeler was a Huffy. Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the name was picked because of the bike’s weight, again, just a guess, but I’d say my bike weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-zillion pounds. At least I thought so. After all, the name Huffy made perfect sense. If you had to pick up the bike and carry it for any reason, you’d be huffin’ and puffin’ in no time.

Nevertheless, it was my first two-wheeler. I was proud of it. A grown-up bike.

My Dad put training wheels on in the beginning. I didn’t know kid in the neighborhood who didn’t feel the painful stain of  stigma (usually self-inflicted) of having training wheels. Not just because you wanted to ride a bike like the older kids, but their name. Training wheels! No self-respecting kid in the neighborhood was comfortable being seen with training wheels.

All the kids in my neighborhood, boys and girls, were self-respecting. We wanted our training wheels taken off our bikes, as soon as possible.

Finally, the big day came. My training wheels were coming off! Holy crap! I sensed I might be experiencing a wee taste of what it was like to become a man.

The moment was as ceremonial as it gets. I got on the bike – Wait!

A sidebar, if you please. I had short legs.  may be worth noting that inch-thick blocks of wood were clamped to each side of the pedal by a generous wrapping of duct tape, all so my feet could reach the pedals.

Back to the story.

The ceremony was underway. I am balancing on both wheels supported by my father who is on my left and holding onto the back of the bike seat. I start to pedal, and we get underway. My Dad jogs alongside, holding onto the back of the bike seat.

My confidence grows. I am pedaling!

Now I am becoming a man!

Now I look to my left; my father isn’t there anymore.

Now I am careening onto the Costello’s front lawn!

Now I am toppling over!

Now, of course, I am trying again.

It took about two more tries to get it right, but soon I was riding my bike. Picking up speed. You discover one of the reasons people talk about the wind in your face.

There was a freedom to be had when I’m on my bike. Still is. Our movement is our own, and, for me, there’s the gift of knowing my father is part of my every stride.

Tadmuffin Millhouse #1

“A lot of people are rubbish on the loyalty front. I don’t get it.” Our speaker was my good friend of many years, name of Tadmuffin Millhouse. Tadmuffin. How on earth do you not like someone named Tadmuffin Millhouse, I ask you? The man sounds like a cottage!” log-cabin-1886620_1920

We were sitting side by side on an old rock wall flanked by woods on one side and a meadow on the other. We faced the meadow. The movement of a meadow when the breeze has its way is magic to behold – beauty in perpetual motion. Tadmuffin’s chest had puffed up with happy pride when out of the blue I asked him for his views on the importance of loyalty. 

“Too often the script is essentially the same. I’ll hear a woman or man say, “I’m loyal to my family and friends. To all my loved ones,” and then, more times than I’d like to think about, they jump ship the moment any, say, actual real-life loyalty be required.” 

And then, Tadmuffin being Tadmuffin, told me his loyalty. 

“Loyalty comes from our better angels. Spiritual nausea and pain is what disloyalty feels like, experiencing it, or inflicting it. Disloyalty is injustice. Moral injustice. Hell, I’d be loyal to that pleasant looking man walking across the street over there. I can see his wife. They’re laughing. I’d be loyal to her as well. I love being loyal to others. I can’t do anything about lip-service loyalty. Loyalty is an honor to have in one’s marrow. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fear free, but it is honorable life.” 

Back to the woods

The woods have been my sanctuary since I was a small boy, and now, after another wrestling match with a dose of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is my sanctuary. The PTSD is the result of being held up and shot in the head in 1984.

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The author. April 4, 2020

Needless to say, events like that one shift life’s landscape to varying degrees. It’s not unusual for it to take time to, first, recognize the changes, then, the hard step, accept them. You have to accept them in order to manage them. If I did not accept my eyes won’t let me read anymore on their own, I wouldn’t wear glasses when I read.

If you don’t accept the presence of whatever it is that is impeding your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it will continue to drag you down, and it won’t stop.

The woods and all the magic that awaits there, welcomes everyone with as pure an equality as there is in life. I’ve done a lot of healing in the woods. They’re helping me heal now.

Donald J. Trump: Our American Sadist

No president in the history of my country has been less bigoted when it comes to the question of caring about the lives of other, simply because he doesn’t care about anyone’s life but his own. Donald J. Trump  doesn’t care about anyone’s right to stay alive other.

You’re clinging to a hope that isn’t there if you think he wouldn’t throw every-single-one-of-his-children-under-the-bus, their lives and all, if need be.  Particularly if it increased his ratings.

That this man is sick,  being void of conscience is  sick, is obvious. What at first surprised me – it doesn’t anymore – was the emergence of two intertwined camps, those that simply didn’t care who was being made to suffer, and those that enjoy the suffering, and clamor for more.

 

To (verbally) cave someone’s chest in

It is exceedingly rare and  hard to get me into moments in which I’m tempted to give my not-so-better-angels full rein. Moments when I’d like to (figuratively) cave someone’s chest in, through the use of well-aimed words.

Now, I know caving a chest in is something of a harsh visual. I learned the phrase in late December 1969, in reform school, the New Hampton Training School for Boys. It was located, not surprisingly, in New Hampton, part of New York State’s, Orange County.

Learned the phrase only days after my arrival. I heard one boy, my age, say to another boy, who’d angered him, “Say that again, I’ll cave your fucking chest in.”

Right away I realized that my big threat when angered, “Say that again and I’ll punch you in the nose,” sorely lacked the drama and breath-taking imagery his did. I’ve never ever threatened to punch a person in the nose since.

The impulse to verbally “cave a chest” in is infrequent for me these days. Has been for many years. 

However, blatant human cruelty can push my buttons.

I’ve verbally caved White Power Icon Stephen Miller’s chest in many times, Trump’s too.

It’s much harder, though,  when the blatant cruelty you are facing has been aimed at you by someone who would swear to the high heavens they love you (and you genuinely love and care about) who will, lose their shit, as the saying goes, at aim sentences at you that are rooted in heartlessness, absence of any empathy, and,  reeking of so much self-absorption you’re thinking, not without reason, narcissist.

The challenge, at least for those in my position, is what to do. One thing is for sure, not tolerate an iota of cruelty from anyone, much less one who claims to love you, is the place to start, and understanding, massively hard as that is, that another person’s unhealthy and destructive behavior does not deserve so much power in your life, it leads you to make choices you’d later regret having made.

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