America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

30 May 2008

Friday Funerals are the Best..

..Is what people keep telling me.. And that my Father is very lucky and very loved by the Big Guy for this reason. We've been to City Hall, we've ordered the food and drink for 100 people.. We went to the cemetary and picked a spot.. We (ten of us) carried him down the stairs from the third floor in a casket.. We took him to the mosque where he was bathed one final time- and yes of course I insisted on being present and helping out.. Now he's back in the casket, staged in front of the mosque (which is not a casket in a true sense- it's used only for transport) as brother and I wait for Friday prayers to end. When they do, people will flood out and surround the casket and pray some more. After that it's a short trip to the cemetary, where everyone who wasn't here at the mosque (the women of the house) will be waiting. I'm told that the way it works is that my brother and I get into the grave and help lower Father into it. He's wrapped in three seamless pieces of white cloth-that's it, there's no casket. Strangers are walking up and praying, squeezing our hands. My eyes are bloodshot and raw. I probably look like I will be next to go.. While my younger brother Ali is as poker faced and calm as a Hindu Cow... Wife has been falling apart a lot. She and my Dad had a special father-daughter bond.
It's bright, sunny and 80+ degrees, just like every day is here in Mudanya, just like California. I'm looking forward to my next bike ride, my next race, and every one which follows.. Because I have this far fetched hope.. That Father will finally and easily see how hard I try.. How seriously hard I work to be the best I can be.. He'll excitedly stand with a clenched fist as I wind up a finishing sprint and attack and open up an unclosable gap..
I'm delirious.. Dreaming.. I miss him so much..
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Thank you..

.To everyone who is reaching out to me on the blog comments as well as privately. I've given up on answering everyone individually, for now. I'm blown away and eternally grateful.
We're about to leave to go and choose a site for Father at the Mudanya cemetary. He loved it here by the ocean.
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29 May 2008

After

It's 2am. We planted a few seeds and news spread like wildfire. Before you know it, phones are ringing like crazy, the doorbell is chiming non stop, and people are flooding the house to pay their respects. I'm tired- laying down in the same room as Father's body. He's covered head to toe. His two big toes are tied together and a strip of cloth is tied around his head and chin to keep his mouth closed. The balcony door is wide open and the room is chilled. We have pepsi bottles in the freezer which will soon be ready for use as ice packs to keep Father cool long enough to carry him to a mosque in the morning for cleansing and preparation for burial. Per islamic requirements, he must be in the ground before sundown the following day. Tomorrow after morning prayers, a short invitation to his funeral will be read via speakerphone from the minaret. (This is being repeated at another mosque in Bursa also) After Friday prayers at the local mpsque in Mudanya, those who want to can then join in a quick stand up prayer outside the mosque, around the coffin. From there we proceed to the cemetary where his site has already been prepared and we lay him to rest. Per tradition, everyone in attendance is encouraged to throw a few shovels of soil into the grave, until it's filled completely. And then begins a period of mourning and group prayers at the house.. Etc etc. I'm going to try to take a nap..

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Lost Him

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Whose Nightmare is this?

I keep thinking about what a nightmare this situation has become for me and the family.. Then I come to my senses when I consider that Father is the one who is really living in a nightmare right now, and then I want to punch myself and jump off the nearest bridge for being such a pussy.
If I knew that I would live for another 40 years, I'd happily split them 50-50 with my father. We'd go into the dark together, 20 years from now.

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A new day

It's windy enough this morning that there are little whitecaps all over the water, which we have a clear of, from father's apartment balcony.
He's hanging in there. I told him repeatedly that my brother will be here today. His breathing is getting labored. He hasn't taken any food or drink in the last 40 hours because every drop of food causes a gag reflex and a fit of coughing on phlegm that has nested in his throat. He used to be able to clear it and spit but not anymore. The IV doesn't work either- it goes for ten minutes and then backs up and blood is everywhere. His veins are all shot from the chemo treatments.
We're just "getting ready" for the inevitable at this point. I'm emotionally drained. Last night I sat with him and told him I love him very much, that I always have.. That he's my champion and hero and not to be afraid..
Damn.
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28 May 2008

45 minute spin

That's all. Barely 100 watts. Rode past my uncle's waterfront summer condo in Burgaz, which he has owned forever. Nobody home, or at least I assume so- no Opel parked out front with German plates. Even if he was home, I'm not sure if I would have stopped. And if I had, I'm not sure if I would have been very nice to him. He's the oldest of 7 siblings, and he hates my father for a variety of reasons.. Mainly because my father insulted him while in a drunken stupor.. Ironic thing is: When my two teenage uncles used to sneak around getting drunk, my 12 year old father was a witness. Determined to keep him quiet about it, they would pass him drinks too, in return for his silence. And so begins the story of my father's alcoholism. Fast forward 50 years and we find my father on his death bed, and his two older brothers "G-d knows where", and completely oblivious. They can both suck my balls.
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Hondas in disguise

No Accords in Turkey- it's called Legend here. The economical Honda Fit is called the Jazz for whatever reason. Also, I'm seeing a Land Rover Freelander everywhere I turn. I can barely afford to lease one back home.. How do these poor poor Turks afford them here? There's a 100 percent tax on imports.. And limited financing options. You think you're the shit because you leased an LR2 with no money down and can afford to fill up for $4 a gallon? Take a pill. Get over yourself. The vehicle and the fuel is more than double the cost here, while the Median income is only about $1400 a monthn probably a lot less.
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27 May 2008

Day 4: climber's heaven

Some corrections.. The main highway which climbs out of Mudanya rises 750 feet in 2-1/2 miles.. The old winding road (that is, the return to Mudanya which I use to get home afterwards) rises to 900 feet (but begins at 200 feet elev) in exactly three miles. I did both climbs again today for the third consecutive day.. And then some.. Today I discovered a road which climbs up out of the valley to a point opposite the city of Bursa to a little "koy" (village) called "Gundogdu".. Which literally means "Rising Sun" or something close.. At the top of this climb, at the fountain of the village mosque, my altimeter read 1200 feet. The view of the city of Bursa down in the valley took my breath away. To see the entirety of a city populated by 2 million.. as though it was painted there by a giant paint brush- something to behold.. My companion and guide on this scenic five mile climb was a 40 year old mountain biker/road race dabbler who had me making 'woman noises' all the way to the top. In fact, Zafer is a bike commuter who climbs this hill every day after work, then doubles back down to get home. I can't say I blame him. The traffic was light, the breeze cool, and the views awesome. He had a backpack and climbed smoother and faster than me in spite of the added weight. Opened a nice gap on me too I don't mind admitting.. Though I did keep him closely in sight the whole way. But.. He does know the road like the back of his hand. My legs are quite sore and achy from all the climbing I've done after taking 6 days off the bike and then traveling 8000 miles. I'll try to return the favor and make him suffer on Sunday's group ride after I've taken some recovery time. Great guy, Zafer. A rare breed indeed, especially in Turkey. I'll take some pictures on Sunday's ride, which I'm told usually goes 120 km. Now that I think of it, today's total climbing was 3000 feet, according to the Polar. Two consecutive days prior, I know I did about 4000 total feet of climbing. So 7000 feet in three days. That's a lot of vertical rise for an over weight guy who climbs poorly.. Last three days I have about 9 hours of ride time and approx 160 miles.. Not too shabby. Tomorrow I take a light one hour spin with no big ring and no hills. My avg HR today was 142. Could not go hard enough due to soreness, to get it higher.. Max HR was only a weak 174.
Father seems to have taken a step backwards today.. All the forward momentum of yesterday erased. The initial shock of when I first saw his emaciation has passed.. But I can't help but feel a certain disconnect from my emotions. It's like a circuit breaker has tripped- it did it's job of protecting me from overload and complete failure. Tears no longer well up when I look down at his broken body. Guilt about my easy-going nature, my 3 hour bike rides.. Guilt rears it's head and pokes me in the ribs occasionally. Must be a form of adaptation. In order for me to be strong enough to feed him by spoon and to keep him clean and to help him clear phlegm and wipe his mouth, certain systems require disabling.
Thursday my brother arrives and maybe then I'll hit the reset button.. Though I must admit that it's easier this way.. And that I am very afraid.
I'm not a religious person.. In spite of my family's best efforts to indoctrinate me.. I'm agnostic. Believe it when I see it. There's maybe probably a G-d.. If so, he's not a participant or an influence on our lives.. For this reason, prayer is futile. Buy powerball tickets man, because that has a greater chance of enhancing your life. G-d can't help you.. And if he did, it would be pretty unfair to all of those who are sick and dying or killed senselessly every second of every day.. Who helped them? Were they overlooked for not praying? Or for not praying to the correct G-d? To me' G-d's more like an apathetic observer.. Powerless or at least unable to show it. I am infuriated by the words "Thank God!" Or "It's G-d's will". For fuck's sake stop giving credit to G-d for your hard work AND THEN giving him praise for tragic events! Stop it. If you triumph, give yourself the credit. If you have cancer, it wasn't "G-d's fucking will" either. Sorry if I offend. I do not mean to indoctrinate and I do not disrespect those with faith- my father is deeply religious. He was anyway- but maybe that's changed..
I don't believe in hell.. Which brings me to the whole point of this rant: I find the concept of Heaven very hard to believe as well.. But in these last few days, for the sake of my father, I'm at least hoping for it with all my heart. Thanks for reading.
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Day three

I think I'm losing weight in sympathy for my dad. Eating less.. Riding lots. And climbing galore. Can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a ball-busting climb.. Later today I'll go out of Mudanya on the main highway with my Polar and get the altitude profile for later. I'm guessing that it climbs about 600 feet in 2-1/2 miles. The other day I climbed it without stressing myself too much, but it turns out that I pushed hard enough that my bar tape unraveled on the tops.. Tonight I'll be meeting up with one of the local Masters for a ride together. His name's Zafer. We tried to rendezvous last night (my 2nd ride of the day) but I took some wrong turns and it didn't work out. In the morning I went out by bike to meet my wife at her mom's house. Since I needed to have street clothes with me, I took the "rescue pack"- my orange adidas back pack that looks a lot like Diego's.. Had to climb the hill out of Mudanya with about 15 extra pounds.. Plus I added my red blinky to the bike to be safe. We rented a car yesterday for two weeks- a brand new Renault Symbol. It had 12 km on it and the interior still wrapped in plastic. For a sub-compact it sure had no trouble swallowing my bike in the trunk (with both wheels off). Cost for 15 days: 1050 dollars. Gas costs 9 dollars a gallon so it will be about 120 dollars to fill up the 13 gallon tank. Crazy. You can rent a car for 20 dollars a day in the states. Here it's triple to rent a car and more than double for gas.. Americans complain about gas prices.. Pfffft! I hope the price goes up to 10 dollars. Can't afford it? Ride a bike! Eat your house! You know the one where you financed BOTH the down payment and the other 95 percent too?! Sorry I'm way off topic here. Here's my upturned middle finger to Washington Mutual Bank- the one which, for the third consecutive year, embarrassed me in Turkey with credit card transaction failures.. In spite of my calling in advance and telling them I'll be in Turkey. What a joke.
Father seemed to improve marginally yesterday.. But he looks a little more tired this morning. Pulse is down to 96 today from 120.. I don't know if it's a good sign. He can't speak. He can't stand or walk without two people assisting him.. He's too weak to eat or bathe or do anything really. We need a full time nurse because Im here for only so long and his wife is exhausted both mentally and physically. There is no such thing as a "hospice" in Turkey, or so I'm told. Got cancer? You're on your own.
Yesterday while out on the roads I suddenly became very aware of a few observations:
1. Everyone.. smokes.. cigarettes.
2. Men walking hunched over, hands often behind their backs, with big beer bellies and narrow downward sloping shoulders outnumber all other 'types' on the street. Occasionally you'll spy one who's in between cigarattes, but it's rare.
3. Young misguided teenage boys with absolutely AWFUL looking 'mohawk-ish" haircuts.. Are everywhere and should be beaten to in inch of their life or until they agree to shave that travesty of hair clean off their heads. 4. Young girls with their heads covered with scarves.. Not only do they appear freakishly top heavy and androgenous.. They also seem to outnumber the other girls by a factor of 3:2. Do I have to go to the south coast in order to see some eye candy??
5. The coolest cars are in Turkey: Seat, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, Fiat, Skoda, Alfa Romeo.. These companies do not sell in the US.. But if they did, their sporty looking compact models would be very popular.. The compact class is very limited in the US, but not for long I think.
6. Turkish people love to gawk, laugh, point and sometimes shout at handsome and muscular bike racers who are wearing great looking team uniforms and going very fast.
:)
Thanks for reading.
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25 May 2008

Mudanya-Bursa

Are separated by 30 km.. I assembled the bike today determined to get back on track. Did not ride this past Mon-Tues-Thurs-Fri-Sat so today was a shock to the system. Headed out in the afternoon heat.. In the direction of Bursa.. Mudanya is the equivalent of Newport.. It's a seaside town about 1/2 hour drive from Bursa/Providence.. There's only two ways out, both from the same road. One requires you to climb a 3 mile hill on a windswept state highway with terribly heavy chip/seal asphalt. The other road is the "old" Mudanya road- used for ages before the highway was built. It climbs for about 4 miles to a higher elevation, switching back and forth through olive orchards until you reach a point where the views are so breath taking that you may as well be looking from the seat of an airplane.. Today I wanted to take the old road but I went past it by accident- the mouth of the road which leads to the climb was so over-developed with housing that I didnt recognize it. Used to be nothing but olive trees.. So instead I rode the steeper and more direct highway to get out of Mudanya- didn't go hard up the climb, but it still hurt. The descent was a hair raising 45-50 mph. Overall I rode 50 miles in about 2:55. My tan lines after today will make everyone back home look like feta cheese. Father is still fighting a fever. Doesn't seem fully self aware.. He's scared and confused.. Seeing things around him which we cannot see. Today we lifted him into his chair next to the bed. He wanted to sit.. It was a good opportunity for him to eat some soup and drink fluids.. There were other benefits too of which I'll spare you the details.. This could be the beginning of a long and drawn out ending. I check his pulse regularly- it's a solid 110 to 120 bpm. Beating strongly. I don't think he was prepared for this. He doesn't seem to know what hit him. Even when he was well and into treatment, we never spoke of his inevitable death. We always danced around the topic using words of encouragement.. Now that he's hanging by a thread, I can't help but think that he's highly confused and very angry that we kind of lied to him in the process of propagating our own denial. We were lying to ourselves, too.. I hope he doesn't hate me for duping him into believing he'll recover. Not just me, but everyone who cares about him is complicit. What a silly thing to feel guilt about, yet here I am. Thanks for reading.
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Apologies..

I'm delivering lots of bad news and I feel badly for being such a Buzz Killington..
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Sunday morning

Im wearing the same clothing as yesterday- slept in them. Suitcase and bike are still unpacked. Brought a nurse in who helped put an IV on my father's wrist. We're giving him some serum with sugar and b-c vitamins. We've more or less given up on using modern plumbing.. Will he come around? Stand on his own ever again? Eat? This is hard.. But it could be a lot harder.. If father were awake, we might see and hear and know how he really feels. His unintelligible whispering and blank face expression makes it easy for us.. It hides his pain and his fear- the two things I can't bear to witness.. I fell apart completely last night when I first saw him. My next meltdown will be when I see him cry or wince in pain.
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24 May 2008

Nothing left to do

We've been at my father's house for all of 90 minutes. It's 8:50 pm Saturday May 24th. Moments ago I sent my wife to go stay at her mom's with my son. None of us have slept in the past 24 hours, unless numerous 5 minute episodes of passing out in the airplane count..
I do not recognize my father's appearance.. And in his incoherence I have doubts about whether he recognizes me. The shock and awe of seeing his wife carry him to the bathroom heimlich style.. Paled in comparison to the moment they emerged from the bathroom.. And father's legs gave out... The same legs that raced bikes 45 years ago.. And I lifted his weak and crumpled body from the floor the way that a father carries his slumbering 5 year old child and I carried him to his bed, for a moment astonished at my burst of strength.. until I realized how much he's wasted away.
This has been the most difficult hour of my life.
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Greetings from Frankfurt

Three hour layover until our flight to Istanbul starts boarding. Gotta love Lufthansa!! They took the bike case without asking for an extra dime.. Of course it might be because we are entitled to 6 suitcases and only had 4.. The bike case was the lightest piece too.. Maybe they'll nail me on the return leg.. We're docked at a table and chairs in front of a panoramic view of the airfield. It's pretty awesome. The Airbus ride here was six hours, and that plane was huge.. You take a flight of stairs down to the toilets. Private Lcds in front of every seat.. You choose your own movie, cartoon or sitcom. I was seated next to a 350 pound mouth-breather who cursed at my son in German when he accidentally kicked the guy.. I didn't take offense. Germans usually do not seem to be crazy about kids (Sorry Ralf- they're generally just plain cold towards their own kids and especially towards the kids of others) Me, I don't think twice about talking with or winking/smiling at little kids. I'd pick them up and kiss them if I knew I wouldn't be assaulted by their parents.
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12 May 2008

It's about time!

High Gas Prices mean more Bike Sales and Repairs
It's funny- the price of gas in Turkey is about $8-9 a gallon, yet most adults look upon a bicycle as a toy, not as an optional mode of transportation. People are more likely to buy a noise-polluting 50cc scooter than a bicycle.. and never a helmet of course..

09 May 2008

Who do you miss?

You can miss someone whose side you left moments ago. You can miss someone who you haven't seen in a while, or for a very long time. Me. I miss my brother, sister, father, mother.. to be more specific... I miss the times when the five of us were together under one roof. laughing. sleeping. fighting. eating. whispering. shouting. I mourn the end of those days.. however painful.. or sad.. or turbulent.. I mourn the loss of that unity.. the different flight plans of our lives. It's tragic that five family members can be so polarized.. misunderstood.. separate. It's been an emotional period for me, these past few weeks. I hold it together while in the presence of friends, family, co workers.. but occasionally I fall apart like a house of cards.. I let go. I'm overwhelmed. I'm forced to stop and pause.. pull myself together.. tighten my chin strap and get back in the game.. It's not just people we miss. we miss places. time periods.. days. moments. homes and neighborhoods.. views from a window.. sounds, smells, tastes.. silent moments of solitude. lonely moments of fear. It's bittersweet. that yearning for what is over and gone. Time passes. We remember things long forgotten. suddenly. like the rush of dopamine from that first hit. then we discover that there's something more that we miss. something which has worked itself loose.. and fallen from the machine.. as it continues to slowly fall apart.

Apart from discovering this song at the end of the movie "Last Kiss", I borrowed the Coldplay disk from my brother a few months ago and never returned it. This song does indeed beg the questions: "Who do you miss?" and "Who misses you?"
When you know you will lose someone and the duration of the timeline is getting compressed, songs like this will turn you inside out. Press play for me.