Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Living the dream ?

December was not a particularly great month for me. For one, I had a demolition project next door to my shop going on that made it impossible to work for most of two weeks. The noise and dust caused by the remodel of the bathrooms next door got to be so oppressive that there was no way I could attempt to weld while the floor was shaking with the sawing and hammering.

The next thing to come down the pike was a kidney stone that got stuck and landed me on my back for nearly a week and a half-this infirmity made it so I missed the three biggest races of the cyclocross season and my team had no manager for the Nationals . If you are self employed like me , you know well that there is no unemployment, no state diasbility and no crew to carry on the work while you are incapacitated. So, what are my plans for the new year ? That's pretty easy to figure out.....work my ass off to try to catch up and pay the bills.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make : The phrase " Living the dream" has been bandied about in reference to folks like myself who are supported by building bicycle frames. The person or persons who use this phrase in regards to what I do obviously have no idea what full-time framebuilding is about. If losing money for years , having days of wrench-throwing frustration , working until 10:00 at night to catch up on a build that took way longer than anticipated , not getting any kind of vacation for years-opting instead to go to trade shows where most folks don't even look at the stuff you brought is living the dream , I think most folks would rather take the nightmare option instead.

From the outside looking in , some folks must see the daily jaunt to the workshop and subsequent idyllic time of self-employed crafting as the dream that got away-the escape from the mundane work-a-day life that most people endure to scratch out a living in this crippled economy. From the inside looking out , my view is that all the years that led up to this point were so difficult and debilitating that I find it difficult to rejoice in celebration of my so-called dream.

This is how I got to the life of full-time framebuilding. It wasn't as if I had a calling I could not refuse-it was not that I felt as if I was put on this earth to do just this , build bicycle frames with every micron of my being-and it was certainly not because I thought I would be living the dream. This is what happened. I worked really hard, stupidly hard much of the time. I didn't always believe that I would succeed-I just kept at it , almost like some sort of beat-down. One of us was going to give in-Me or the F$%^ dream. For years I stuck with this craft as if it were my only choice in life..........it wasn't , but I worked at it, fought it, made many blunders , learned and re-learned the same stuff over and over again because of my impatient and slipshod nature- What I did was beat my head against the frigging wall until I made a hole in it and climbed through. What was on the other side of that wall ? A dream ? No. An awakening and some spiritual enlightement ? Not really. What was on the other side was folks that saw what I did and placed a value on it. It was these folks that saw all my blunders, all of the dents in my floor and workbench where tools had been thrown - these amazing people who awarded me for my seemingly hopeless and psychotic devotion to a craft that initially I had little talent for........these folks welcomed me to be someone who was valid as a bike builder.

I have read where a person said that folks like me who were " Living the dream" owed my livelyhood to a builder who came before me who the great majority of my customers have never heard of. Maybe I owe my job to the folks that put on the trade shows. Maybe I owe my success to the internet. These reasons all sound great except for the fact that they ignore two things: # 1, I started this job before the handbuilt shows, before anyone building bikes even knew what a web page was and also ,with just a few exceptions a lot of builders back in the day were not willing to give out any information or support to anyone like me. My position is that I owe my success to the folks that come to my shop and see a reason to have me build something. My customers are my saviors and I always want to be worthy of their trust. That means that I have to fix my fuckups in a timely fashion , I have to on any given day be ready to bear down and focus on a bike that must be depended on to be safe, fun and not hold the rider back in any way. It isn't and easy thing to do and it is no dream......it is reality. I'm living the reality , and the torch, the welder and the materials will never let me forget that. Happy new year !


  1. Word up. Don't forget the burns and metal splinters.

  2. Vacations are like little quitter sessions. You don't want to be a quitter now, right?

  3. I could use a little quit next month. I'll take that instead of going to Austin where i would run the risk of being blinded by stainless glare....

  4. >>> blinded by stainless glare....

    new lyrics for a manfred mann classic atmo.

  5. ....wrapped up like a douche...it was actually Bruce Springsteen.Manfred Mann covered it , kind of like the Masi Grand criterium made in So. Cal. -very Good but not the original item.

  6. don't get co-opted by the man atmo.