Thursday, February 7, 2013
Eternal sweater weather and the luster of idealized memories
It's getting cold all over again
As wind chill temperatures have reached -20 (that's -29 Celsius) where I live over the past few weeks, my annual longing for Colombia begins in earnest. It starts, as it always does, with a poignant exhalation as I wake up and check the weather report. Soon, that morning disappointment will be accompanied by a quiet voice in the back of my mind, one that grows into painful longing, accompanied by melancholy memories of the rural towns that surround Bogotá. It's not so much the towns themselves, but the desolate roads that connect them, the rolling topography, and the views that come with it. Memories of the sunny, yet everlasting sweater weather of places like Cajicá, and Sopó haunt me. Those towns are forever engrained in my mind in grandiose versions of themselves. Once there, they remain frozen in time, just as they were when wealthy friends from school would invite me to their family's weekend homes decades ago. Luckily, this being rural Colombia, little has actually changed, and these locales remain frighteningly similar to how I remember them.
Some people dream of sun-drenched beaches in places like Southern France, the Caribbean or some archipelago in the Pacific. My dreams, I suppose, are decidedly pedestrian by comparison.
At any rate, by mid-February, my mood will begin to reflect this longing for Colombia. Luckily it will be around then that my wife (who grew up over two thousand miles away from Bogota and Colombia itself) will suddenly, and without any prompting, say: "We should go to Colombia soon."
Forget the cliché about "I love you" being the greatest words in the English language. Whoever said that is a huge liar. Either that, they've never been to central Cundinamarca. Or perhaps they've never heard their significant other utter the words, "We should go to Colombia soon."
Nothing can compete with the past
Once upon a time, my life was devoted to music. Playing it, listening to it, going to see bands, and talking about going to see bands. Every aspect of my life, more or less, had to do with music. Being in Louisville this past weekend for the cyclocross world championships actually reminded me of that fact. Why? Because many, many years ago, I did something uncharacteristically impulsive: I quit my second/third-shift job at Kinkos, in order to go see a band play in Louisville, not far from where the race was held. My boss, the one with the clip-on tie, wouldn't allow me to have the day off that upcoming Saturday, so I walked off, throwing a silent tantrum that would have made any teenager proud. I still remember the drive to Louisville that Saturday afternoon. Nothing like a long, un-air conditioned drive during the summer months to make you think about your choices in life.
At any rate, those days of music dominating my life are largely gone, but this past month I managed to see live music three times. A rarity for me nowadays. In each case, the performers involved had clearly reached an age where their physiques had suddenly taken a turn for the worse, at least when compared to when I had last seen them. Though I'm well aware of the fact that I am in fact aging at exactly the same rate as them (it's true, I looked into it), the results were often shocking.
This reminded me of the fact that, in our minds, everything was better back when we enjoyed that thing the most, or during the time when we were first introduced to it. Nothing, I'm afraid, can compete with the luster of idealized memories. And looking at the pictures above, I'm not sure that anything should. Speaking with Martin Ramirez recently (second rider from the left in the bottom picture), also reminded me of this.
In the end, your personal predilection may vary from mine when it comes to cycling teams and eras. It's also no doubt governed by your place of birth and timing. But the sentiment, I believe, remains the same. May your memories bring you joy, as mine do.
Donations to Colombia
For some time now, I've mentioned here on the blog that I routinely send boxes of donated cycling goods to Colombia. At first, I did so through Cesar Grajales, who distributed the jerseys, shoes and bike parts at the velodrome in Manizales. I then started sending boxes to the Rigoberto Uran Cycling Club in Urrao.
While I continue to do this, I'm happy to announce that a reader of the blog has taken it upon himself to grow this idea of sending donated goods to Colombia. To that end, Onedin Giraldo has started Dreams To Wheels in Santa Clara, California. If you have cycling clothing (jerseys, shorts, jackets, shoes etc) or parts (particularly products that can be used universally, like inner tubes, bar tape, pedals with their cleats etc) in good condition, visit his site in order to donate them. Donated goods will make their way to Colombia, where they'll be distributed among kids who are very much in need. I continue to look for different clubs and academies with kids who are needy, and will pass those contacts to Onedin to make sure he's able to spread the joy. Thanks to Onedin for all the hard work.
Lastly, here's a video of Team Colombia during their training camp in Trentino this past week. There's something surreal about seeing all these Colombian riders climbing through the snow. Makes me wonder if perhaps I should just toughen up, and get through the awful February weather here without complaining.