Journal Entry: Discourse, August 2014

How does someone really make a difference?

I honestly don’t know. At least anymore. Do one thing? Do it well and hope that others follow along? What I find challenging today is the lack of allowable discourse. If you mention something the Canadians do, or the crafty Europeans, one of the responses you get here is “Well then why don’t you go live there?” Questioning the way things are has become “anti” and frowned up.

Let us look no further than online photography. I don’t look at work online, and I’m dangerously, dangerously close to not looking at ANYTHING online outside of my immediate requirements of email and work related issues. That’s it. My departure from social has had a profound influence on me, and this influence grows stronger and stronger each day. The vast majority of online discourse is predictable and catered to the overwhelmingly positive. You know the favorite kisses, “Amazing,” “Incredible, “Awesome snap.” Etc., Etc. This isn’t discourse. The news is embarrassing. One real story buried under celebrity, the outlandish and the tricks to feed the insatiable advertising machine. We are bought, sold and traded on a daily basis.

I’m in the Texas Hill Country today, my final day here, and this trip has been a strong one. Where I sit now, looking out a picture window, I see little to no influence of modern man. Five acres. I’m sitting in one small space on five acres of land owned by my bloodline. The cabin is hand built, fortress like and yet it is under constant attack by the forces of nature. Rain, wind, relentless sun and an absolute army of the insect and animal world. Yesterday a scorpion in the shower. Brown recluse under the desk I sit at now. And just this morning, outside as the sun peaked over the Twin Sisters, I see deer, raccoon, squirrel, white wing dove, vulture, hawk, bull snake, fire ant, chickens, feral cats and an abundance of song birds. Last night mosquitos and clicker bugs bombarded my waiting carcass.

There is no chance in winning this war. It’s evident we are the visiting species. Yet a few scant miles away the Earthmovers do their best to enslave this wild beast, and they do it in the most shortsighted, ignorant, arrogant way. Just do it and do it quickly. The new road is already showing signs of fray. The traffic has already overwhelmed the “upgrades.” “Progress” is made as the horizon is painted with identical rooftops, all needed to be air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. The three foot wall of Earth has been replaced by the six inch wall of toxicity. (Our neighbor’s house was lined with toxic insulation. I know because I walked it as it was being built. Right there on the warning label.)

I’m not the only one. Others I know look around and ask “Why?” But none of us know what to do, what step to take. Do you take a stand? Maybe. When you take a stand you are often times labeled, pinned, accused of being “revolutionary,” a “kook,” or something worse. Anti-American? Questioning is now subversive. In Orange County a man yells at me in the parking lot of the market because I rode the 2 miles from my house on my bike to shop. “You shouldn’t be on that thing,” he says to me, shaking with rage. Why? Was he stuck in traffic on the way to the same market? Has the bike become a lightning rod? Or do we have a growing, underlying anger emerging from what is clearly a dead end street of human “evolution?”

I see many underlying issues, but the one I find most troubling is greed. Look no further than our current wars, the financial collapse, the auto industry lawsuits, real estate bubbles, etc., etc. Greed. Plain and simple. Driving the daily engine to acquire. You question this and suddenly you are “anti-progress,” or “against competition.” The cover ups, the bail outs, the leaks of atrocity. They are endless, and the media makes sure we are good and scared while being good and burned out on all things that matter.

Drugged. That is how I would describe this, or us. We are straight trippin. So we medicate with media. We medicate with television. We medicate with the internet. We seem to know everything and nothing at the same time. I’ve written a lot about attention span, something I find wildly interesting. “You should write multiple posts per day.” “You need listicles.” All words of advice about blogging. Forget the truth. Forget how you really feel. Do what you need to do to gain, to get and to promote. Man, I’m so over this mentality. How many of my photographer friends live dual lives? The online, professional life and then the real one they wake up to each day. They pretend, the clients pretend and the awkward imbalance continues while EVERYONE whispers behind closed doors.

The truth hurts, but it’s a good sting, like eating ginger, or wasabi when it goes up your nose. We don’t need much. We really don’t. I have too much. I’m guilty of some of the things I complain about, and my mind wanders like a felon on furlough at the Playboy Mansion. I’m not centered. I have no real answer. But with each passing day my mind gets closer to making a stand.

Meaning. Yes, okay, I’ll do it. “What is the meaning of all this?” Yes, I just asked that question. What is the meaning of life? Is it building another strip mall because you own a concrete company and that’s what you do? Is it covering the Gaza Conflict? Is it joining a monastery and attempting to find peace? No idea. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know.

Journal Entry: S. Texas August 2014

Thunderclap
Duramax dreams
this place would be difficult for me now
after all that has transpired
the squint, effortless after a while
dust devil with the condor above
nature untouched by modern man
footprints below but pavers can be heard on the wind
they are coming
you have two choices
surrender
or take to what you can’t see, what your instinct tells
is out there
and run with it
bark, feather, bone and all that remains is the dust
the cycle continues
my little tribe is on the precipice, something we all know is coming
but we are still unprepared
nothing we can do to change the odds
life just runs, powerstroke
pistons rise and fall, rise and fall
hammering as the clock betrays any chance of changing course
drop the main sail, hoist the jib
hold that rudder like it’s made of gold
stay the course
but it gets more and more difficult
when you know you can’t pretend, what alternative ending awaits
the fateful decision you promised you would never make but
know you will surrender to
the buildup is just about more than I can take
hints here and there, more hints
you hope they are misunderstood, something you can apologize for later
whispers, tilt that new brim down a notch and don’t move
wind swirls a chop pattern as the line unwinds above your head,
down your arm and into the wild green
there is nothing to do now but wait

Near and Fargo…….Ti

While I have yet to discover a cure for Lyme Disease I have found a wonderful distraction. This distraction happens to come with 29r tires, a titanium frame and disc brakes. The new beast has arrived. The 2014 Salsa Fargo Titanium, drop-bar, adventure touring bike. I know what you are thinking. “Milnor, you live in Newport, get real man, there is no adventure in Newport outside of bombing the stairs at South Coast Plaza or Fashion Island.” You are nearly correct, but just as this bike is a distraction from the battle with Lyme it is also a permission slip to dream about the future.

Daniel_Milnor_Salsa_Fargo_Ti

The idea is a long tour. Originally, my idea was just across the United States, Washington to Maine on the Northern Tier Route, and I might do this, but I’ve also got ideas for a longer, more exacting route that I don’t want to divulge here, at least at the moment. It’s a secret and it involves doing my photography thing as I go. I got on my bike today and my wife asked,“You ready to go?” I said “Mentally, I’m already gone.” The reality is a tour like this is not in the cards for me at the moment simply because I love my job and I do not have the time required to even begin to think about something like this. But think I do. Almost every single day.

So, to satisfy my curiosity, when time and location allows, I will be taking short trips, three to five days if I can time vacation or holidays with being in the right location. So far I have made four short excursions on this new bike. All four were what I would describe as Newport excursions. Now for those of you who routinely ride across the Yukon or places like Mongolia, don’t go thinking Newport is a breeze. No. Sorry. Newport is as dangerous as any location on Earth.

Newport excursions include things like dodging financial dudes in 4×4 Rovers with front axle breathers who have never seen the dirt but have no issue driving like they are in the Paris Dakar. We also have soccer moms in black Escalades with 22-inch, black spinners who have the innate ability to navigate a car full of kids doing 60mph in a 30mph while simultaneously TEXTING and drinking a $13 cafe latte half cafe decaf with acai. And not to be outdone by other generic urban centers, EVERYONE on EVERY TRAIL, at ANY time of the day is on their phone, walking serpentine like a drunken felon on weekend furlough. I once saw a puddle of blood, one shoe and a broken cell phone on the trail. Like Ron Burgundy says, “You gotta keep your head on a swivel when you find yourself in the middle of a cockfight.” I couldn’t agree more. Newport might not the Divide Trail, but I’ll take a grizzly over a high school girl on Instagram ANY day of the week.

A few observations.
I had always heard about the ride quality of titanium. Oh, I forgot to mention. Anyone who still thinks this is going to be a photography post can sign off now. Titanium is like…like…well, like your Grandma’s 1982 Le Sabre. It’s smooth. Combine this with a carbon fork and a Thudbuster seat post and you have a ride that equals my full suspension mountain bike, at least over dirt track, fire road, etc. When it comes to single track or insanely rough places the full suspension bike is the king, but for everything else I was amazed at how smooth the Fargo is. Also, the bike is, by far, the most comfortable bike I’ve ever had. I’m riding a large, which I initially thought was too large, but it’s actually perfect. The drop bars combined with the sloping top tube, mountain bike style frame is the perfect merger of siblings who never knew they were related. They are, and they play nicely together. My first time with SRAM shifters which took about 1.75 minutes to adjust to. All frame bags are made by this Canadian character, otherwise known as Porcelain Rocket. I have since added a handlebar bag as well as bottle mounts on the front forks and down tube.

There is an upside of Lyme Disease. Lyme made me rethink a few things. The reality of a medical world mostly unconcerned with the disease. My overall health, and oh ya, EVERY SINGLE THING I DO ALL DAY LONG. Lyme has given me a perspective about life. Funny how disease does that. Makes you realize there is lip service about life and then there is the actual marrow. Whatever it is you feel you MUST do in life, must be done. One way or another.

This bike for me is a reminder. A reminder that when I wake to the sound of birdsong, something I do each and every morning here in California, I need to stop and enjoy those sounds. When I take that first sip of coffee, the real black fluid that powers our culture, I should stop and enjoy it. Appreciate it. Someday this bike will aim in an unknown direction and take me to places I never thought I would every be. Until then this bike serves as my reminder there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are corners in the road I can’t yet see beyond.

Get on your bike and ride.