Self**

I once stood in front of a girl at a dance, hoping she liked my face (and maybe that my awkward shyness might be endearing). She politely declined my overture. Then there was the one time at a bar in Germany when I was a young airman and a little drunk and smitten, and I had to present myself with my stupid, drunk, smitten face to a pretty girl. It’s a short story but worth the read.

Eye contact is really hard for me unless there’s a connection. After much self-reflection I have determined that I never outgrew my doubts about my face – it’s what people tend to see first despite all that talk of books and covers and premature conclusions.

What few pictures I do share of my face often obscure the eyes, and this is not a conscious act, but an inescapable truth. I have nothing to hide, really, as I do post pictures of my body on occasion, but the eyes are different. My eyes are green with a brown ring around, and they are okay, I guess. My nose is prominent, my hair, dirty blond. Pretty plain, really.

Then there’s the beard.

Oddly enough, the beard was not allowed to grow to hide my face, in fact I appear even more plain without it. I also look older clean-shaven. The bio on my cycling Instagram account states “I don’t care for pictures of my face, but that’s where my beard is.

Social behavior was much different when we had to actually look one another in the eye and state our case, voice quavering, cheeks flushed, eyes trying desperately to not appear desperate.

Then there was the whole ordeal of dialing six numbers and hanging up seven times before finally allowing the phone to ring and hoping maybe to get her answering machine because you had already forgotten your introduction an were terrified of rejection because of it.

Nah, it was a really normal adolescence.

But I digress.

There are very few pictures of me from birth to 50, and I don’t mind so much. There are already more pictures of my granddaughter at 6 months than of the first half century of my life. Technology, I guess, but also psychology, and that part I’m not even close to figuring out.

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Solutions


Learn something new each day.

Sue, from Cambridge (the accent melted me into a puddle, but I pulled it together) came in last night close to closing with a problem I’ve never seen before. She recently was given a new pair of very expensive cycling shoes and was having trouble moving the cleats over from her old shoes (pictured, different brand); the bolts weren’t long enough.


As has been noted here on the very rag you are now reading (God bless both of you), I spent 20 years in IT. I never studied computer science, in fact, my senior year of high school I spent daydreaming during Mr. Dixon’s teachings on the Apple IIe. It’s a miracle I passed the class after finally coding a rudimentary version of Missile Command.

During this unexpected arc in my working life I soon discovered that what I do isn’t taught in schools – I mean, to some degree it is, but there is no certificate to earn, and you can only try to articulate it on a resume.

I solve problems.

This skill was a consistent asset until time finally caught up with me a few years ago, when companies were able to hire kids with freshly-minted degrees for much less money. Leaving that job as they handed me my hat was a turning point I could not have seen coming – you see, I was given a one-year notice because the company was acquired and I was needed to help shut down the data center.

But that asset transferred like Ivy League credit when I fell into the cycling industry.

In three and a half years of turning wrenches on bikes ranging from rusty old cruisers found on the side of a road to $13,000 custom carbon racing rigs, I have learned more, by light years, than two decades in the IT field taught me about computers.


A mentor told me early on (to boost my confidence) that as a mechanic, all we need to do is read faster than the customer, which is basically the general coursework for solving problems quickly on one’s feet.

Sue’s shoes needed longer bolts – this is not common as Shimano, the industry leader in many areas, makes a very popular clipless system which I’ve used for years. There is a satisfaction to finding solutions on the spot as opposed to sitting through weeks of change control meetings to solve a computer-related problem without creating others. Different degrees of difficulty, I now, but the principle.


Six times IT recruiters have contacted me since my last IT job ended, which incidentally fell square on my 50th birthday. Crisis? What crisis? Each time they have said they would like to interview me, but then never called back. They never returned my follow-up calls. They never returned my e-mails, like I was stuck in some sort of short-term memory temporal anomaly.

After six of these I stopped responding. This is important as I still entertained the notion of making IT money because brother, bike shop wages are a vow of poverty. The work is gruelling, both mentally and physically; managing half a dozen problems in the immediate, lifting cumbersome 30 pound bikes into racks fifty times a day, working 50-60 hour weeks, closing the night before and opening the next.

I wasn’t this fit in basic training.

Today an IT recruiter contacted me and actually followed through by sending a job description with an offer. The job pays significantly more than my current position, is full-time with benefits, and is local.

But it’s not enough to break me away from a place in life where I’m making a difference, and let’s be honest, this big stupid grey beard makes me a wizard in a bike shop and just an old man in a data center. With confidence comes security and about the only way I could justify moving back to tech is if they essentially doubled my current salary, and I’m not a money guy, I’m a job security guy for obvious reasons.

Maybe declining this offer would be a mistake, but I see the lay of the land pretty clearly.

And I don’t just land on my feet, I fucking stick the landing.

Torches

In high school, especially senior year, time moves a little slower. Four years can seem like an eternity and we all change so much during that time; lockers, political views, musical tastes, voices, facial hair, social circles…

I never ran with a pack. My mustache was pretty lame, being blond. My voice cracked at peculiar times. The Smiths emerged, singing about my young life. I attended two different high schools, the latter at which I discovered a girl who made my heart race for two years. I knew some of the kids from grades two and three as I had attended elementary there, but they didn’t remember me after eight years.

Some things don’t change.

Carrying a torch for someone is easy when no one notices you and you’re too shy to say, “Hey, check out my sweet torch.” I’ve told parts of the story too many times and I don’t wish to wax redundant.

Suffice it to say some torches burn long and hot even when set down for a few decades, and that works out well for me because I essentially live in a dungeon and a torch is a good source of light when writing about what’s left of my heart and soul.

That’s Nice

At my very best I am amusing for a moment or two, but invariably passed by for the promise of immediate or frequent touch. Perhaps the good that comes from this disappointment is a clear understanding by another of why I place such value on touch and why I can’t experiment with it. It’s all or nothing. Black and white. Distance won’t work and dating is unfulfilling.

I need to feel it, like being hit by a train or having a piano dropped on me. Don’t worry, I’ve suffered worse.

The real struggle is in my dearth of social ability. I wish I could at least be uncomfortable in public, which is where I hear we meet other people, but uncomfortable with myself at home is already hard enough. This is not something I can just change, or re-calibrate, or update the firmware.

I will live in an apartment through the winter after having had a house to myself for a long while. From time to time I imagine a chance meeting of neighbor at the laundromat, or saying hello while I’m on the way to work and she is walking her dog.

A moment.

Not just a greeting and a smile, although that would be a huge victory, but a moment. I keep my place tidy, I make my bed, my bathroom is impeccable, my kitchen is clean, all in case I ever have someone over even if only to share a cup of coffee and a story.

But that doesn’t happen to me. I’m not that lucky. I’m also not that skilled at conversation (although I do know how to write and I do listen well), and I am at an age where I am invisible, and if seen, I’m ‘a nice guy,’ and ‘why hasn’t anyone snatched you up yet?

Each day features the same routine which always ends with an expired wish and empty hands and a deep need inside which can only be addressed with meaningful touch.

Durable

i am tired of being the one
to solve problems
born of
negligence,
ignorance,
procrastination,
awareness decayed
by self-importance
and disregard for
the precious minutes
in my day

i am tired of being the shelter
and never the storm
the last man standing
the overlooked
the ignored

but this is who i am;
solid, steady, durable, true
nothing else suits me
and my toil is just a means
to an end of a day after day

after day

no time remains for pursuits
outside the walls where i live
where i breathe
where i dream
where i grieve
over the lifeless form
of a once vibrant and hopeful

heart

Grand

“I don’t know where I need to be, but I’m pretty sure it’s wherever you are.”

I’ll never forget the moment those words escaped, how they hung in the air, naked, heavy, vulnerable.


I tend to know the direction of a relationship before anyone else, and there is no way to share this honestly without raising the romantic threat level, and yet I do because I’ve never been good at timing, or keeping at bay that which I know for certain.

I am a believer in the grand gesture; not a contrived effort to convince her of my interest, no, the kind of grand gesture that’s simply a heart spread open as offering, a confession, a revelation, a pure and clean truth so pure and clean and true it cannot be retracted or altered. It can only be said out loud.

And acceptance of this truth is optional; denial doesn’t make her bad.

But it’s extremely painful.

I am stronger than any destruction yet wrought upon me, but I am battered and bloody and spend much of my waking hours dusting off while standing to await Fate’s next crushing blow.

Too soon.
Never too much, just too soon.
It spells my doom.

Classifauxed

Teetotalling INFJ Capricorn male born in the year of the dragon on a generational cusp with onefiftysomething IQ, acute emotional intelligence, zero anger issues, blind to jealousy, and equipped with severe social anxiety seeks anyone who will tolerate him and his big stupid grey beard for a night. Must be small talk averse and able to navigate long, unplanned, awkward silences.