Dulldrums, Fall, and Responsibility

There was a slight rush to buy bikes.  Kids took off for school.  Now, birds are tweeting out a last thank you to the trees.  A hummingbird buzzed around my flowers yesterday.  The air is getting crisp.  There’s an apple orchard somewhere.  A pumpkin patch.  Dead grass and mud.

This morning a client tried to bargain down the price of a $60 mountain bike that I tuned up right in front of him.  Then, he asked me to deliver the bike.  We settled on him borrowing a bike rack for his car, and leaving me a $10 deposit.  I may or may not see it again.  It’s just stuff.  Bikes.  Racks.  Whatever.  I’m weary of the push and pull of value, currency, need and utility.  Sometimes, closing a deal fuels my afición for renewal of these discarded steel skeletons.  Sometimes, however, I feel neglected.  Because I am not selling new high-end carbon fiber triangles fashioned into bicycles, my efforts are not recognized.  Who can buy a new bike and sell it?  Who can buy a rusty mess, clean it, cobble together enough parts and lubrication, and sell that?  Does anyone see the difference between a lock ring tightened in the proper position, versus one tightened to seize the ball bearings over time?  Who’ll know if I put a drop of oil down the brake cable housing before installing the brake cable?  Thing is, I did.  I always do.  It’s called OCD.

An employer once told me that anyone can build a new house, but it takes a real knowledge and experience to do remodeling.  He was a grumpy old bastard, but he was right.  He probably became a grumpy old bastard by doing things the right way for too long.  It’s rewarding–especially in retrospect or when you’re wearing a clean shirt, but it is absolute humiliation most of the time.

A ton of people skate above the realm of material manipulation.  Craftsmanship used to be foremost in our minds.  Whose family didn’t have farmers, carpenters, mechanics or nurses a hundred years ago?  People are now employed in industries whose sole purpose is the negotiation of someone else’s work, property or money.  Miles away and several economic rungs further down the ladder, someone is, in fact, doing something.  They’re teaching, healing, building a bridge, a road, a house, a steel girder or a diving board.  Instead of thanking them, we think to ourselves or say out loud, “Why can’t they get out of our way?  She doesn’t know what she’s doing.  Hurry up!  They’re dirty.  You owe me a better deal.”

“Hole in the bucket, mother fuck it!”

That’s what Shelly Kelly told me on the school bus 27 years ago.  It’s North Ellettsville, IN dialect for “Keep calm and carry on.”

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When I get down in the dumps, I look at this bike.  

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