Sunday, March 23, 2008

The State O'Things

Well, thanks to Fritz I've got a lot more traffic here than I usually do.  Thank you sir, you're a gentleman and a scholar.  I don't feel like I'm back as such, but I certainly haven't been posting for the last little while.  Being a new father will do that. Mind you, I've never been particularly consistent about posting.

I'm a little at sea about what to do about this blog.  It started as a motivational tool to keep me practicing guitar and soon developed into an exploration of just why I spent so much time playing music when I never got paid, recorded or even played more than two gigs a year.  I found an answer to that question and my motivation to write ebbed, as did my desire to play.

I can't really call myself a musician anymore.  The band has folded and even if it hadn't I'm on the other side of the world.  I don't practice as such, my only playing is strumming for my daughter, singing her #1 favourite: "Yummy Yellow Strap".  Our routine is for me to play some simple changes she can shriek along with.  Then I tune the guitar to a chord and she has a bash until the yellow strap on the guitar become more interesting, and tasty apparently, than the music.  I then sing a couple of rounds of  YYS and we move onto something equally fascinating, like chewing on junkmail or bashing empty boxes.

So what do I write about?  I'm reluctant to become a daddy blog although that's a subject I have very strong feelings about.  I'm not likely to become a cycling blog although that's a passion of mine for the last 20 years.  I've never really felt the need to be exclusive in content, to the detriment of my hit count.  I guess I'll just carry on as I have been, writing about the things that move me and things that I need to figure out.

In honour of Fritz's kind link here's the state of my cycling life.

I mentioned my dilemma about what I'm going to do for work in this dry, dry land.  Since I wrote that post we went to the Victorian government department of small business.  They were very encouraging about starting a cycling business.  I got a bunch of handouts and have started reading them with an eye to compiling a list of questions for a professional to answer about owning and operating a small business. It's been pretty straightforward so far.

I'm uncharacteristically optimistic about this endeavour.  During the day I'd have to describe my mood about it as positively cheery.  At 3 in the morning whilst cradling a screaming Em, pacing the hall in a soothing march my doubts gnaw away, digesting all that yummy positivism.   "What if I can't get financing?"  "What if I get financing and can't make a go of it?"  "Will I have to flee back to Canada or will I end up in debtor's prison?"  "Will getting the LUC to smuggle me dope and cigarettes keep me from becoming some hairless felon's special friend?" "Will I ever get a decent night's sleep?" and so on.

I've also been wondering if my optimism is coming from somewhere else.  You see, the light here is different.  It's somehow cleaner, purer, like it's fallen straight from heaven unsullied by common air.  I'm not the only one to notice this; I first read about it in Bill Bryson's book "In a Sunburnt Country."  Mind you I didn't give it much credence, Bryson's book is as much a love letter to Australia as it is a travelogue, and those in love aren't the best of witnesses.  Is this light illuminating things as really are, a celestial arc-lamp of truth?  Can it be as easy as making the decision and putting in the work?  Or am I being fooled, being sun-addled into risking money that I don't have, risking my daughter's future?

Ah well, self-doubt is a comforter I've had since my bike had 3 wheels and no brakes.  Nevermind that it's ragged, faded and in bad need of washing.  It's mine, and I won't be parted from it without throwing myself down and screaming until I turn blue.

As to actual cycling, I haven't done much since last September.  Let's not talk about how large my waist has become.  We brought our Brompton folders but the nearest town is 20k away, not too far to ride but too far to tote a 7 month old baby to.  Everytime we go to Melbourne if find myself oggling the cyclists passing by to the point were I feel just a little dirty about it.  I've taken to wearing sunglasses all the time and hoping that people assume I'm perving on all the pretty young things walking around.  Speaking of which, unless something has changed drastically at home the girls here wear a lot less clothes than I'm used to.  I'm terrified of Emlyn's teenage years, terrified.

Now, just in case I actually go through with this mad idea to start my own store I have some questions for you my gentle readers.

What was the worst experience you've had at a local bike store and what's the best?

I have my own ideas about what cycling retailers do right and wrong but a sample of one is pretty paltry.


Saturday, March 15, 2008


Coming from Canada to Auz isn't the transition it might be from other parts of the world. We're both big nations with lots of nearly uninhabitable land. We're both ex-British colonies with all the Queen still on the money and our beers are better than the American's. I've found it different enough here to be interesting and the same enough to be comfortable, a rather pleasant situation indeed.

I'm at a point in my life were I have to make some decisions. I spent the last 20 or so years managing a used book store. It was a dead end job but I was good at it and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. But when I told my boss that I was going to take a year off with the LUC to be there in the first year of little Em's life it was obvious he was glad I was going. And that as they say, was that.

I spent that summer being the full-time mechanic for the Edmonton Bike Commuters helping people fix their bikes. It was great. I loved working with my hands and teaching people, empowering them even. It was immensely satisfying. I would be happy doing that for at least a few years but of course moving to Australia is going to make that impossible. Besides, the LUC's earning potential as an engineer is much greater than mine so it looks like I'm going to be playing Mr. Mum for the next few years. I'm more ok with that now that I've met our daughter than I was previously. I've called myself a feminist in the past and agreed that raising a child is a job of equal or greater worth as any other. Now it's time to put up or shut up.

I have a notion for fixing up old bikes between nappy changes and selling them to make a little cash. I took the repair course from Barnett's Bicycle Institute last fall so I'm pretty confident about my repair skills. I've also got some ideas that would make these bikes more enticing to people than old bikes usually are. We'll have to see. It'll be a while before Em's independent enough to allow me much time to work.

The LUC and I have talked about setting up an alternative transport consulting business. She's a transportation engineer specializing in bikes, peds and whatnot. As much as I enjoyed teaching I'm not sure I bring enough to that party to be useful.

We've also talked about opening a bike store. One that specializes in commuter and lifestyle cycling. Really, it's the obvious thing to do with my experience in retail. I'm hot and cold on this idea. Small retail is a stressful way to earn a living and I've never met a bike store owner that I'd call happy. Mind you, I've only met them in their store with me in the role of customer, not exactly a situation that promotes easy confidences.

We return to Canada in June either to pick up where we left off or to pack up and move to Auz. It's looking 95% likely that we'll move. I'm really hoping to see my future clearly before then. Right now it's all a jumbled blur, the possibilities overlap and shift and I'm not at my best with these sorts of choices. I suffer from the delusion that there's a right choice, and only one right choice. All the others are traps loaded with poisonous spiders and rabid dingos. Much as I'd like to just close my eyes and leap I'm going to agonize and fret until fatigued and dehydrated I fall into the next phase of my working life.