Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pumped like Ahnold

Sorry, can't help myself....

Kind of makes me wish I hadn't wasted all that precious time having pointless sex when I could have been lifting weights.

I joined Crunch gym today. At the time, I overcame the obvious shame by doing what I always do when join any organization that decreases the awareness of the collective consciousness...I mentally distanced my own goals from those of my peers. Not only does this make it much easier to justify my involvement, but also to be highly judgmental of my fellow man, a hobby I've been meaning to devote more time to. The more obvious I discarded as not clever enough to hold my attention (despite any truth therein) - most having to do with some unhealthy obsession with the body. Currently I'm happy with the sexually-repressed OCD stress-case, filling their particular emotional void with purposeless rhythm. Plus, I'm pretty sure I'll fit in pretty well here.

This is the first official gym membership I've ever had to pay for - between college, apartment complexes, or just knowing the right people, somehow I've avoided ever taking out the wallet. And just like anything I have to pay for, I don't like it. But, the running's getting a little boring, and I'm not as consistent as I'd like, so I figure if I'm paying for it, I'll probably go more often. That theory didn't really work in college, but neither did a lot of others (like the one about getting a "job" afterward...)

So as any proper sexually-repressed OCD stress case should, and especially since I'd have to shell out some actual money for this round, I did my homework on the local gym scene.

There's a LOT of gyms in New York, ranging from national franchises to get lost in to local mom and pops to get scurvy in, and everything in between. There's even a chain of city-sponsored community gyms. I'm actually already a member of this one, and it's REALLY cheap ($50/year), but you quickly learn that pissing off the alpha-male no-neck by jumping in his set will likely land you in the hospital for bullet wounds instead of the normal choke-hold bruises.

Cleanliness is a big issue which separates the good from the ugly. Variety of equipment wasn't a huge concern for me, because I have specific training to do for the trip, but flexible hours were, as I'm still working a lot in the biz. In fact, here's a 'small' list of what I considered important to look for:

- MUST having biking machines, and enough of them. Anything fancy beyond this helps too.
- MUST have both early and late hours, including holidays (for us hedonistic non-salvationists)
- MUST have a free trial.
- MUST be clean, maintained (your ass sweat and my ass sweat should never meet)
- A plus if they have yoga, martial arts, or cycling classes
- A plus if they have in-house personal trainers
- A plus if they have a low commitment (though I'm thinking I'll be at least 2 years)
- A plus if they have multiple city/national locations (I figure I'll just stick to the closest one)
- A definite plus if the staff/crowd/vibe has only a minor amount of aggression
- A plus if they have massage therapy/sauna (yeah yeah, but my po' shoulder...)
- Oh also, the business MUST have some strong impression of permanence. I only want to do this crap once.

So with this list at the ready, I began the search, with only the gyms around me within a 15 minute walk. Since I live on the Soho/West Village border and work in the East Village, and with so many health-crazed gentrifiers around, this really didn't narrow things down, but I was able to get it down to the final 5 before I started comparison shopping:


TRIAL: 1 day. Lame.
LOCATIONS: 13 in Manhattan/Brooklyn, National locations in San Fran, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami. Nice.
CLASSES: Martial Arts, Yoga, and Cycling. They actually have a hell of a lot more than that, from boxing to pilates to dancing. I think their plan is to go for bulk instead of content, because the mutations get a little ridiculous, resulting in the bastard child "Yoga Bootcamp", advertised as the most vigorous and intense way to be serious about relaxation. Once more, the Jersey commuters give New York a bad rap.
BIZ: Solid, they're not going under anytime soon.
TRAINERS: Available in-house, and free for the first few sessions.
FINALIST?: Definitely


LOCATIONS: 9 in Manhattan.
IMPRESSION: Extremely yuppy-pampered, a little vomit came up when I got to the "Beach Club" and "Yacht Club" membership add-ons. Lounging models plastered on the web site. "Personal TV's at every station." Laundry Service. If the final ripple of class inequity is genocide, this is the type of place that makes the first splash.
CLASSES: Hatha yoga, restorative yoga, buddha belly, yoga yoga yoga. Wouldn't want to make all those trophy wives actually get off their asses and break a sweat.
TRAINERS: Obviously - somebody should get some use out of the equipment.
FINALIST?: Not a chance. The focus I'll have to maintain to forget people like this exist will burn enough calories.


ONLINE REVIEW: "Cheap, but at a price..."
BIZ: Privately owned, so I'll cut them a break for not having the greatest business savvy or even a fully-functional web site, but when there's obvious click-through marketing in a brick-and-mortar business, that's never a good sign for longevity. That being said, please click on everything you see in this blog.
LOCATIONS: 14 in NYC, but only 2 in Manhattan. It's been almost 3 months since I've been off the island at all, so 12 of those are useless.
GUESTS: Unlimited. Like I would want anyone I care about see my flab jiggle for an hour straight.
CLASSES: Suck. Only one per day, and not really anything I'd ever take time to go to anyway.
FREE MEDICAL EXAM: Just in case you want confirmation that you're flabby and shouldn't invite any guests.
HOURS: til' midnight weekdays, 9 on Sat/Sun.
TRIAL: 7 days
FINALIST?: I want to break it to these guys gently, like the sweet girl with the hump asking you to prom, "Really, it's not you, it's me..."


BIZ: On their home page, an announcement of 2 clubs closing. Not good.
TRIAL: 2 weeks for $20. Really guys? You can't just eat it with the $150 per month memberships from everyone else? They also label this option as the "Fear of Commitment" option. First time I've ever been called a pussy by a web site.
MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS: Lots. Too many, really - "Favorite Club", "Night Owl", "Traveling". I'll need my broker for this one.
LOCATIONS: A whopping 100 in NY Metro, 40 of those in Manhattan. There's also locations in Philly, Boston, and Washington.
TRAINER: 3 intro sessions for $79
HOURS: 11pm M-T, 10pm F, 9pm Sat, 8 pm Sun. Not the greatest, but just doable.
CLASSES: Lots, just as many as Crunch
KIDS: Day-care services. Wait, I forgot that I only have one kid, and I named it 10 hours sleep a night.
FINALIST?: Just barely, considering the closed clubs, the $20 trial cost, and their assumption that my biggest fear is of commitment. Not true, my biggest fear is that I'm stuck in an elevator with the simple-minded intellect-undermining douchebag that thinks passive-aggressive cliches make clever persuasive marketing.


BIZ: Solid, the most exclusive public gym in the city. The web site even tracks your IP address and shuts down if you're not in the right zip code.
LOCATIONS: 25 or so in NY Metro, 19 of those in Manhattan. Also has locations in DC, Chicago, Boston, Connecticut, Florida, Dallas, and California.
HOURS: til' 11pm M-Th, 10pm F, 8pm S&S
CLASSES: Lots, including something called "terracycle" and "cycle therapy"
AMENITIES: Juice bar, steam room, massage therapy
TRAINER: Yes, one free session
TRIAL: 1-week guest pass
FINALIST?: Sure, as long as I can find someone to give me a recommendation. (after confirming from a fellow entrepreneur colleague/friend who's, shall we say, more of the 'pampered' variety that it is indeed the highest-end club, and having burned all other bridges for recommendations long ago, I must regretfully remove this from the running.)

So, long story even longer, Crunch and NYSC were the only decent gyms with plenty of options, good hours, a variety of classes, and good locations (Crunch is right across the street from my office, NYSC is on the way home). Crunch won by slightly more than a nose because:

1 - they're right across the street
2 - my office building offers a discount ($84, month-to-month)
3 - they give off more of a straight-talk impression with everything they do, and advertise
4 - (and mostly) A guy who works there took a lot of time carefully explaining things to me days before I even signed up, and kept following up through email (my favorite form of communciation) to see if I had any other questions. Genuinely nice guy who cares about his job and his customers, a rare find in the city. Liz and I do the same in our business, and I'm surprised at just how many are out there that don't, and how much they suffer because of it (HINT!!!)

Oh, and I think the Governator has one more thing to say, something about proper etiquette during the post-workout analysis:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A contrived windfall (of time)

Today was the first time in months that I left work for the day, and it was still light outside. Bright light...very...scared...

Over the past few weeks I've gained more and more free time, intentionally planned to work on trip stuff. The idea of the trip, and everything I need to do to prepare, is doing exactly what it's supposed to: To define just what the hell I'm working toward so I can get there faster.

This may seem pretty simple, but I've inundated myself for the past two years with nearly every business-startup book, class, and motivational speaker talk about just how easy it is to make a ton of money, once you're in the right mindset. The right mindset being the launching point for most of the bullet-point list of things you should practice to help re-program your mind: surround yourself with wealthy people, start visualizing your new toys, etc.

Nothing has worked nearly as quickly as these gurus ever claim, and I've always had a sense of self-loathing because of it (which I'm sure encourages the self-healing/self-improvement industry). In fact I've all but destroyed my credit because I didn't "visualize" hard enough - didn't believe hard enough. It's the same old type of story you hear about anyone who doesn't fit that particular mold, the homeless, the addicted, the depressed: "But it's so easy, what's wrong with YOU?"

Even the great effort of our culture to prevent suicides (loaded in "mental illness" terms), to the point of being ridiculously criminally illegal in some places, heavily stinks of a massive denial of how difficult it can be to simply survive. Experience leads to beliefs in almost all cases, and most of the self- and business-improvement industry thrives off of the lack of experience of it's participants' goals. I would call these gurus cynical, if I truly believed they knew they taking advantage of the weak. The truth is, I'm afraid, they simply don't know that they're preaching the most difficult and stressful solution, the "visualization" before experience solution.

This is the reason for my man-crush on Timothy Ferris, writer of "The 4-Hour Work Week":

Ferriss is the first of I'm assuming only a few who talk about the easiest way to live the life you want: Not working for money, but working for time.

And it must piss a lot of the self-help industry off, because it completely bypasses the need to wish-upon-a-star-dependence on visualization techniques to believe it before you see it. Instead, the leverage point is time, lot's and lot's of time. Time to spend reading, going to shows, or say, a bike trip. And everyone knows what it's like not to have to work 40 or more hours a week, because all of us have our most fundamental, earliest memories of not working at all.

All of us as kids had mountains of time to do whatever we wanted, and this was programmed into us during our most impressionable years for learning about life. Sure there were a few chores here and there, and of course, the 12-year educational concentration camp we get sent to at age 5. But we were wired from the beginning for free time, and the beauty of Ferriss's philosophy is that it's the easiest point for everyone to tap into to regain our freedom from the 9-5.

Not money. Time. Only the top 1% know what it's like to live in the top 1%, so why force an experience you don't have? A huge probability you'll get it wrong the first thousand times anyway.

So, in just a month's time, taking a lot of cues from Ferriss, and with the help of my new running schedule, and all the automating techniques with the biz, I've actually been able to reduce the amount of time working to a mere 10 hours per day, down from 16. What I wasn't expecting was just how lazy I can be, and how quickly that time gets swallowed up by YouTube.

Just what the hell do all you people do after 6:00pm anyway? It's pretty pathetic, because I'm only half-kidding. I get nervous when my phone dies in transit, and I don't have my charger on me. Purposeless wandering in my neighborhood is impossible for me to do, which isn't entirely my fault....there's just never much going on in the West Village.

I wish I had something to look forward to after doing all this work...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Running on fumes

I’m exhausted.

Seconds after I revealed this to Liz, she said the same. I can only assume that she’s naturally lazy, and laziness is now a communicable disease. Thanks Liz.

It’s the work. We’re both still very much involved in the physical part of the painting business, as well as the project management and supervision, and then nights and weekends we spend our time doing what we can to keep everything moving forward – papers signed, certificates faxed, emails emailed, marketing marketed, accounting accounted. This makes our typical day begin at roughly 8:30am, pause for a few moments at 5:00 to catch our breath, and then dive into the mental strain for another 4 to 5 hours. I barely have the energy to remember to politely ignore the subway panhandlers instead of shooting them the kneejerk “your life is so much easier than mine, and you know it, and you know that I know it, and you know I can’t say that out loud, and I hate you for it” look.

“Free time” is quite different for us too, compared to the rest of the working middle class. Any time not holding a paint brush, clipboard, or mouse is devoted nearly exclusively to as horizontal of a position as we can manage, depending on the situation (too easy...moving on...). I have slept in my office twice in the past year. Liz started to laugh at me when I told her this, but lost consciousness midway through her third cackle.

It’s starting to affect our weekly admin meeting time too. This past Saturday’s meeting we talked about sleeping in bed for the rest of the day for a good 10 minutes, neither of us eager to get to the task at hand. And somehow our quarterly goals transitioned from a measurable dollar amount to a measurable REM count.

Oh yes, and I’d also like to bike 12,000 miles – no problem, right?

It’s been about a week since I’ve been able to document anything about the trip, basically because when I do have time, even the thought of typing wears me out. It’s two things: time and energy, not nearly enough of either. I’m still so wrapped up in running the business, reliant upon it as a steady income, that I’m so exhausted at the end of the day. I eat as healthy as I can on the go, which is a lot better than just a few years ago in college, but it’s nowhere close to what I know I should be eating (organic, raw, etc.).

So, I’ll be focusing on the things on my trip’s pre-planning to-do list that will directly address these, and put them before everything else right now:

1. Remove myself from the business ASAP, putting my income on autopilot

2. Wean myself off my current diet toward a raw-foods only one.

3. Begin regular exercise regimen.

This should take care of both problems: the time from the business, and greater energy from the diet and exercise. I’ve been through a liver/gall bladder cleanse before too, and I remember a giant boost of energy after that, so I’ll add that to the list as well:

4. Undergo 14-day gall bladder/liver cleanse

Case in point: Yesterday (Sunday) I woke up at 11:30 - SUPER late for me, usually a 7:30/8:00 riser – plus, I couldn’t find the willpower to move from that spot for another 2 hours. When I finally did, every step to the shower felt excruciating, and it took everything I had left not to crawl back in bed afterward. I remember triple-all-nighters in the architecture studio that were easier to deal with than my current 11 hours of rest.

I had to visit the corner store pusher man. Oh yes, my blood-coffee content is about .08 these days, requiring a refill at least every 3 hours…I know, I know, it’s just making things worse…but there’s… do…

And that’s how an hour later I found myself running across thousands of pounds of steel toward Brooklyn during a lightning storm. I’m lucky I live in a country that doesn’t believe in natural selection.

Soho to Brooklyn and back, across both bridges, literally through pouring rain for the final 20 minutes. And to depart from the sardonic narrative for a fragment of a sentence – it was fucking awesome. I’ve always had more fun dodging taxis on my bike than moving 6 feet over to the bike lane, so I felt right at home running in conditions any salient homo-sapien would have justified as gym-worthy.

I was able to sustain enough energy afterward to do my skanky laundry and get some groceries, that the decision was made…Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursday mornings I would run in the mornings, until I got a new bike.

As a side note, I was able to check out Olafur Eliasson’s waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge, as suggested by a client:

Clearly a dangerously insane man.

The structure is supposed to mimic the scaffolding you see on the streets every other block -- because that's what every New Yorker wants to see more of, of course. Maybe it’s because I grew up very close to ‘nature’, or that I’ve been to Niagara, but I thought it was pretty lame, at least the one (of four) that I saw, despite Olafur's esoteric spatial-temporal claims of impressiveness. Plus, it’s strategically placed where no one visiting the city on the famed bridge can get access to it, as was the intrigue of the “Gates” in Central Park a few years ago. There’s a much cooler one at Sutton Place Synagogue on E. 51st St I discovered recently:

The picture doesn't do it justice, it's huge up close. One of the few spots in the city that traffic noise is completely drowned out while still all around you. Pretty eerie, like crossing the Hudson to visit the other "New Yorkers"... (so which part of Manhattan did you say Hoboken is located?).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pretender to the Throne

Googling your name is masturbation. Googling your blog is masturbation in public. Googling your blog after 3 entries is masturbation in public, while sobbing. Certainly we can all relate.

I suppose I should have named this "The most important journey any human who has ever lived has taken or will ever take in the history of mankind, and you are all lucky to even experience the written account of said journey." I tried it, but Blogspot said there were too many characters.

Ok, so I'm not the first to think of this trip, according to the search results, but certainly in the next few paragraphs I can justify why I'm the best so my ego can live to fight another day. The search was "Pan-American Bike Trip":

From the site: "On July 26, 2005, Brooks Allen & Gregg Bleakney embarked on a 19,500 mile bicycle journey from Prudhoe Bay (the most northern road accessible point in Alaska) to Tierra del Fuego, the southern most tip of Argentina. Their goal is to raise $50,001 to help fight Diabetes."

Very cool site, well laid out, great pictures, superb map, and excellent documentation. It looks like my estimate of 12,000 miles was pretty close too, considering I'm not trying to show off and start from Alaska. And what's with the whole diabetes thing? You think you're better than us, Brooks? Pretty smug if you ask me. (note to self: look into getting expenses comped by incorporating trip into a 501c3 non-profit charity)

From the site: The Road South is my solo bicycle journey along the Pan-American highway from the tip of North America to the tip of South America....Unfortunately, fate had other designs and a freak accident involving a pick-up truck and a bicyclist(me) in the summer.... nearly two years after the accident my titanium-reinforced leg continues to heal but now appears up to the task. So now, at the age of 34, I embark on my most ambitious bicycle trip ever.

Ok, apparently Nick didn't hear that the Alaska/Argentina trip had already been done, and by guys that clearly wanted theirs to be an altruistic trip, unlike Nick's selfishness. No wonder he went alone, I can't stand him already. I like that he upped the ante for the personal sympathy vote with the leg thing though...I think I might also have a similar "accident" just before I plan on leaving, hopefully resulting in the removal of an extremity. That should win me a few rides in the back of a pickup along the way, so I don't have to do so much damn biking.

From the site: I will cycle 25000 Kms across 16 country borders. The ones you see on the maps of this web site, but the ones I'm really planning to cross are the borders in our minds that exist subconsciously and limit our own perceived capabilities. They're the borders that say "You can't do it," and so prevent you from even trying. This trip is about conquering inhibition and blurring the line between dreams and reality.

Everyone calm down, my office is in the East Village, I know how to handle these people. Michael, a little help please...

And finally...

From the site: "Talk to Emmanuel and sooner or later you will realize his family and The Bible, the Word of God, are two of the main sources of inspiration into his life."

Automatic disqualification.

Distance & Timing

So if I've learned nothing else in the past 48 hours, it's be careful what you wish for.

No sooner than I mention that I'll need to start removing myself from the painting biz and putting my income on autopilot that I give the most expensive estimate to date: $9200.00. I gave this last night to a client, who surprisingly didn't balk at the cost, and wanted to know how quickly we could move forward. This was assuming I could find her a carpenter and floor guy to take care of some things before we got started with the painting, which I'll also get a nice finder's fee from. So basically, she's wanting to refinish her floors, remove an A/C unit, whitewash some exposed brick, remove and replace all her baseboards, and paint her entire split-level apartment -- oh yes, and all in 3 weeks, please.

So instead of enjoying my Sunday off and as well as the illusion of me ever actually taking this trip, I've been in the office all day, writing up her project, finding a carpenter, sending emails all around, and what the hell, let's clean out that inbox too. Definitely going to be a rush job, but it will give me a nice boost, and enough of a time buffer to continue to work on automating as much as I can to spend more of that time to planning the trip.

And of course, I have to wake up in 4 hours to start another project. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

(sorry, couldn't help myself...for anyone needing a helping hand with that one....)

Ok, so, catching up....

What I wanted to find out first was how long I would realistically expect to be on this trip, and even better, so I could look back afterward and laugh about just how far off I was.

The first thing I needed to calculate was the distance. And this is where the North/South digital divide immediately smacked me in the face. I admit it...I went to Mapquest and Google Maps first, to find driving directions from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of the southern-most cities in South America. Go ahead, let it out.

Ok, how about just a google search of "driving distance New York Buenos Aires". Nothin. Since there are clearly no other online options aside from Google, I decided to just take what I could get from the results, and refine things later on. This was just going to be a rough estimate, anyway.

The best I could find were a few sites on the straight-line distance between the two cities, which was a little over 5,000 miles (insert flying-bike-joke here). However, I returned to MapQuest and got back a 1700-mile trip from NY to Houston, TX, which was about 1/4th the distance, as far as I could eyeball it on a map.

So, I figured:

1700 x 4 = 6800 miles
Adding some mileage for detours, I rounded up to 10,000 miles
Then I figured I better add a good buffer in case I was way off, so I brought it up to 12,000 miles

So, 12,000 miles from NY to Buenos Aires.

Now for the speed. According to my slave-master Google, the average biker can peddle 17 - 23 mph on the road. I wanted to still leave some room for error, especially with the rough roads I know I'll be hitting, so I downgraded it to 15mph as an average.

12,000 miles / 15mph = 800 hours
800 hrs / 6 hours biking per day = 133 days / 30 days per month = ~4.5 months

So, it would take 4.5 months biking non-stop every day, for 6 hours per day, one-way.

So 6 months wasn't that far off, considering I'll obviously be stopping for days at a time to rest, enjoy, and check the mountains of email that have accumulated (oh yes, technology is definitely coming with me), but this is also assuming that this will be a one-way trip. I haven't made that decision yet, so I guess I should be prepared for a full year just in case.

And so this is the plan:

And I expect this is what my GPS will record:

Friday, June 20, 2008

pre-planning: the broad strokes

(fyi, a YouTube search of "South America" will bring you mostly soccer vids, but about the 7th one down will bring you a foot-long centipede. I really hope I don't have to include these in my on-the-road diet.)

So aside from adding to my current menu, I also did some very basic research on South America last night and today. I was hoping to get further, but I got really distracted by all the National Geographic vid's on YouTube, mainly involving "something" versus "something", such as the one where they film the same centipede above attacking and eating a tarantula.

Anyway, I kind of expected nature to be the end of me on this trip, seeing as creatures are apparently 20 times the size that they're supposed to be. However, just in case the gods don't decide I need to die by their hands, I certainly don't want man to. And for someone growing up in the burbs in the South, I know very little about the political history down there, other than you're apparently issued a junior pistola on your 7th birthday for the upcoming protest.

And so the cursory to-do list starts like this:

- Language: Become fluent in basic Spanish, and learn as much slang and dialects as possible

- Income: Begin removing myself from my painting business, start automating, subcontracting, and outsourcing as much as possible to turn my income on auto-pilot. I'm also going to have to clean up some debt and put all that on auto-payment as well. Collection companies are that much pissier when they have to make a $20 international call to harass you about your $50 electric bill.

- Health: Get knee, foot, and shoulder past injuries looked at. This might actually be a trip deal-breaker, as I've neglected getting the proper attention for these for several years. I imagine I'll need to get in touch with my holistic side to address some of these ancient injuries.

- Eyesight: So that I can be as independent from glasses or contacts as much as possible, I'll need to begin alternative eyesight-improvement methods, like the See Clearly program. This gets it's own category because my sight is so horrible

- Diet: I've been wanting to go pure raw these days (currently a part-time vegan), and with all the injuries I need to heal, as well as the energy I'll need to train, learn, etc, this seems like the time...

- Exercise: I've really become a poor excuse for a sack of muscles these days. I'll blame it on the business agendas. This should also boost the energy levels. Jesus, I'm gonna have to be one of those guys grunting out their demons at the gym now, huh?

- Education: In general obviously, the geography, the politics, the environment, the climate, the holidays, the culture. More specifically, I want to be able to have the foraging backup plan in case I get caught between towns with a flat tire, and I'd rather not end up being the inspiration for "Into the Wild 2".

- Bike Training/Education: So I've done the city-biking routine, but I am fully aware that this is completely different, from the mentality to the endurance. I'll need to purchase another bike as well, as mine was stolen last fall. I figure it will be the first "training" bike that I get for the trip, so that I can learn all the hard lessons on a cheaper version, then opt for the $2K upgrade a few months before I leave. To get my body used to the challenge, I'm guessing that I'll start with small trips around the city, then the outer boroughs, then to Long Island, then upstate, and so on. They have bike clubs all over the place that I'll probably join too, and who knows, maybe I'll meet someone who's as nuts as I am, and I'll have a traveling buddy too.

Liz told me last night that anything could happen between now and then, and because she's nominated herself as my relationship coach, this clearly meant that I might have a few child support payments to make. Eh...just put it on the auto-payment tab, and hopefully I'll make it back for the 1st birthday.

But as soon as she said it, I realized how lucky I am to be in the position that I'm in to take this trip: I'm single, no kids, no mortgage, no "boss" or "job", no more military obligations. I'm pretty much the only thing that could possibly sabotage taking this trip, and I'm eager to find out how I'll do just that.

Of course, I can't leave this entry without posting the centipede/tarantula battle royale:

the first entry (pre-pre-pre-planning)

So lately i've been in a funk.

Such apathetic beginnings inevitably lead to one of two extremes: a self-indulgent journey of life, love, and the rest of it...or a bullet-point presentation of efforts for world domination. I'll take the former...for now...

A funk. It's not really that accurate. It's not even really true, the whole "lately" part. I'm pretty sure that I've been on some kind of downward spiral since my first drag off a menthol cigarette at age 9. I just wanted to look cool and have fresh breath. If I had known that, 19 years later, it would lead to losing any ambition to do anything....well...I'd probably have smoked it anyway. Don't look at me like that, I lived in the South, was almost a pre-teen and still hadn't gotten laid, what were my options?

So at 28, having given up menthols for cloves long ago, been in and out of college (occasionally getting a degree), been in and out of the military (occasionally going AWOL), escaped southern xenophobia for New York City (where there is no such thing as racism), found the meaning of life (Daniel Quinn), lost the means to life (my credit score), found the secret to life ("The Secret"), and started up two businesses....I am utterly bored.

Two nights ago, during a "tomorrow's goals" call, my friend and business partner Liz picked up on the depressed tone in my voice, and being the bleeding heart that she is, asked "What's wrong?" -- obviously not a native New Yorker. 2 hours later I felt better, not because I was more optimistic, but because I had succeeded in dragging her down with me. Honestly, whatever works. Where's that clove...

While tearing down those closest to you to not feel so inadequate is obviously the quickest way to happiness, for some reason my new depth of apathy lingered throughout the next day. Late last night though, I'm walking home from the store with my usual yogurt/granola/rice crackers/hummus menu when I almost get hit by a biker trying to pass a taxi. Granted I was in the street trying to pass a couple walking their tiny dog (while happily enjoying the thought that I'm not so jaded that I'll allow the visual discomfort of a grown man walking a tiny dog in Manhattan as acceptable), and I used to be a big street biker myself, but still...a little part of me hoped that he would have the decency to be dragged underneath the taxi he was passing for my right of way. I was wearing my Italian leather power-boots, for god's sake, have some respect for the pretend-rich.

And just like that, I call up Liz with the newest meaning of life, "I want to take a biking trip through South America!" I exclaimed to her....voicemail. When she finally called back an hour later I was still leaving her a message, so I had to start over. She was immediately excited as well, but I didn't let that hold me back, I was on a mission now.

And so here we are. It's the next day and I've already got a list of things to work on. I figure it will take a few years to prepare: learning Spanish, getting my body in shape, learning the local flora/fauna, etc. I'll need to put my income on autopilot somehow too, so I can still be making money while I'm on the trip, which I figure will be at least 6 months. I'm not sure if it's a one-way or round trip, and while Liz approves of the SA portion, when I suggested that I leave from New York instead of starting in the middle, she said that wasn't a good idea. So clearly that's what I'll be doing (because I don't think I can even do SA, let alone from NY). For lack of a more creative title, I have decided to document all the preparation and the trip itself in (drumroll please) "The Great Pan-American Bike Trip".

Plus, I just found out that the legal age of consent for most SA countries is 16, so that pretty much seals the deal.