Friday, October 26, 2007

Closure and the Cycle

"Life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor." - Homer, Iliad

There are times in our lives when we are forced to recognize the frailty of our existence. Times when we seek answers to questions that have no solutions. Times when closure is nothing more than a figment of our imagination.

Two friends of mine have passed away recently, far earlier than they should have. Both were kind, good-hearted people who made the world a better place for not only friends and family, but for everyone they touched. And many are now left asking why they were taken from us so early.

But life does not usually give us straight answers. Life is fickle and stubborn and secretive. The game of Life is not fair and the rules we play by are not really rules at all but merely a socially-constructed framework through which we navigate the sliding scale of good and bad and the foundation of how we are ultimately remembered when we die.

But what of the closure we seek when someone close to us passes away? Depending on how you view the subject, death only represents the end of the physical body we inhabit. Therefore closure is something of a misnomer for those that believe memories can sustain a relationship beyond what we can see and touch. In fact, closure may be a purely pschological construct.

Interestingly, Gestalt psychology acknowledges the so-called Law of Closure with the following definition:

The mind may experience elements it does not perceive through sensation, in order to complete a regular figure (i.e., to increase regularity).

Although this "Law" is most often represented by the perceptual completion of an image, it can also apply to the way many people deal with death. Our brains are naturally wired so that we strive for closure of the incomplete. And what could be more painfully incomplete than a relationship with someone who has passed away earlier than we were prepared for?

In my personal quest to find regularity and closure...I have come to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, neither exists outside the feeble confines of my brain. The only constant is change and closure in a psychological sense relies so heavily on subjective input that it can rarely, if ever, be considered "real."

Regardless, in my own search for closure I have been reverting to my comfort zone of cycling recently and keep coming back to the situation that Floyd Landis has found himself in. If there is ever someone who has been forced to deal with an absence of closure over the past year, it's Floyd.

Beginning with his positive result in the Tour, to the suicide of his Father-In-Law and now through the first arbitration hearing and on to his appeal to the can only imagine that there has been little closure in Floyd's life over the past year. And one can only imagine how difficult these unresolved events must have been for him. Hopefully the bike has remained consistent in its support.

It's interesting to me that I find so much comfort in cycling because in many fundamental ways, the bicycle often provides me with the best understanding of closure and the cyclical nature of life and the world as I know it. But then again, my definitions of these terms may not be typical.

In psychology, closure refers to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event. In physics, a cycle is defined as "A sequence of changing states that, upon completion, produces a final state identical to the original one."

Cycling is my therapy. There is a conclusion to every ride and I inevitably return home with a deeper appreciation for life than when I left. In this sense, riding is not truly cyclical because I am fundamentally changed by the process. And as a result, I am often far better prepared to handle the stresses and trauma of daily life, both physically and mentally.

We are all racking up miles in the ride of life and we never know what lies on the road ahead. So enjoy the scenery and take time to reflect on the lessons that those who pass before us can teach. Thank you Gary and will be missed.

“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.” – Alex Tan

Carpe Diem

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Landis Lobs Law Bomb

October 17, 2007 - San Diego, CA.

Embattled professional cyclist Floyd Landis announced today that he will be retaining the legal services of Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw in his upcoming appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Landis was recently stripped of his 2007 Tour de France title as a result of a supposedly positive test for exogenous Testosterone after his stunning victory in Stage 17 of that race.

"I trust that the addition of Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw to my legal team will strengthen my chances to prove my innocence and expose the injustices of our current anti-doping system" stated the former Postal Service and Phonak rider at a small press conference in San Diego. He then went on to explain why he chose to add the services of the two high-profile attorneys.

"Most people don't know this but I was actually on the jury for the famous O'Henry Candy Bar Heiress case that Jackie worked on a few years ago for Cosmo Kramer of Kramerica Industries. Even though they lost the decision...I always felt like they would have won if Stan the Caddy hadn't gotten involved" Landis explained.

"Jackie had that case in the bag but bras are like bike shorts...they've got to go against the skin. Like a glove."

Chiles then followed up with the statement that the case against Landis was "outrageous, egregious and preposterous" and described WADA Chairman Dick Pound as being "lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!"

Landis then went on to detail his new found relationship with attorney Bob Loblaw.

"I actually stumbled upon Bob Loblaw's Law Blog while I was recovering from my hip surgery and got some great information. I already had a legal team and he was still working with the Bluth Family at the time but he was very professional and helpful. This guy is all business...there is no nonsense with Bob Loblaw."

Landis also noted that he appreciated the subtle irony of Loblaw's Legal Motto: "Why should you have to pay for a crime that someone else...noticed?"

When confronted with questions regarding recently unsuccessful representation of Kramerica Industries and the Bluth Company by his new attorneys, Landis explained his confidence that these results were not indicative of their ability.

"Most people overlook the fact that Jackie actually won most of his cases for Kramerica Industries. The compensation for those victories was somewhat problematic but he won them nonetheless. Besides...he never told Kramer to put the balm on."

"And Bob Loblaw was once again undermined by the prior ineptitude of Barry Zuckerkorn, who initially represented the Bluth Company. The other problem there was that he doesn't speak Spanish. But we all know that Bob Loblaw no habla Espanol so you can't really blame him for that."

Landis then ended the press conference with a brief summary of his defense strategy.

"I trust that my new attorneys will be able to win this appeal for me due to their extensive experience and aggressive legal approach. I want the headlines to read: Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw Lob Law Bomb at Anti-Doping System."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I’m not exactly sure when I officially became a cyclist, but I think it may have actually been before I ever even took a pedal stroke. As a small child my Father used to ride me around Marin County on the back of his ten-speed, stopping occasionally when I would fall asleep in my kiddie seat. I suppose that was probably when I first experienced the joy of feeling the road rumble beneath me and the pleasant sensation of leaning into a turn at speed. The fact that I would regularly fall asleep while my Father was riding was an early indication that I would develop a certain comfort with the bike.

When I finally got my own two-wheeled machine, a root beer brown cruiser with a banana seat and orange detailing, I was officially hooked. I used to tie my Tonka trucks to the back and ride around for hours. Eventually I got an actual ten-speed of my own and was finally able to go on a real ride with my Dad.

On that first ride, less than a mile from the driveway, at the first stop sign, I tensed up, ran into my father and knocked us both to the ground. Not exactly a fairy tale introduction to the sport of road cycling, but I suppose it prepared me for the numerous bike-related spills I would take from then on.

That incident also taught me that you could hit the deck and still get back up and ride through the pain, which would become somewhat of a recurring theme for me. If Dad and I had gone home after we crashed, I may not have become the masochist I am today.

But we didn’t go home. We got back up, dusted ourselves off and kept going for what ended up being a great ride. In fact, when I still lived in California I would regularly ride that same stretch of road between Bolinas and Stinson Beach and remember that day fondly. The excitement and thrill of gliding along Bolinas Lagoon with my Father far outweighed the humiliation of crashing and the painful scrapes to my elbows and knees.

I think that the element of the unknown is one of the stronger uniting factors among cyclists. We never really know how the ride will end up but far more often than not, it is better than whatever else we would be doing. However, the reality is that whether we are training for a race, commuting to work or enjoying a leisurely cruise, every time we go out and ride our bikes, at any speed, we are taking a very real risk. In case you were wondering, cycling is a pretty dangerous sport recreationally and downright treacherous competitively.

I have been hit by cars, crashed out by numerous Freds, broken bones and have lost more layers of skin than I care to remember, all because of my desire to ride my bike. In fact, I was recently reminded of these risks as I swatted away the wasp that had just stung me on the eyelid as I descended Lefthand Canyon the other day. I never know that I am going to crash or get hit by a car or stung by a bee before I go out, although I do always recognize that it is a possibility.

But despite all of the potential hazards, the possibility of having a great ride and the life-affirming enjoyment it brings makes it worth the risk. It was difficult convincing my Mother of this after I got hit by a car and broke both of my collarbones the day before Thanksgiving in 1989, but she managed to understand. Or at least she pretended to.

Anyway, I’m still not entirely sure when I officially became a “cyclist”, I just know that I have used the term to define myself for the better part of my three decades of existence. I have gone from “passenger” to “rider” to “racer” and everything in between, but for all intents and purposes, I may have never even had a choice as to whether or not the term “cyclist” would constitute a critical element of who I am as human being.

Having been exposed to the bike and the joys of riding at such a young age, I truly believe that I have had cycling in my blood since my Dad first strapped me into that kiddie seat on the back of his old ten-speed. I probably could have resisted it and, like most of my childhood friends, forgotten the joy that riding a bicycle brings. But thankfully, my family supported my urge to risk life and limb on two wheels and allowed me to make cycling a critical part of my life.

So thank you Mom, Dad, C-Mac and everyone else that has encouraged me to follow my passion. I am forever grateful and can only hope that other young, would-be cyclists have a support system like mine. Cycling is a wonderful sport and I am certain that I am a better person for having been involved in it since those days on the back of my Father’s bike.