Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking Pablove To...Las Vegas?!

The Pablove helmet—a Giro Ionos emblazoned with Pablo's 'Punch guy' drawings and the Pablove P-heart logo.

For a long stretch of days and weeks, it seemed impossible that life could be OK again. The notion of wanting a normal day stung with selfishness and angst. How could I desire life to go back to normal when normal would require Pablo to walk in the front door, laugh, punch one of his dolls and chase around the house til he found Mommy, Papa or Grady? On top of that, just thinking about professional or personal pressure—other than the one at hand—sent my heart and intellect sinking into the abyss. Made me want to drop out entirely. July, August and the first half of September dripped along like this. Day after day. I was afraid to grip the steering wheel of life, convinced it was lined with razor blades on the back side.

Last week, out of nowhere, I realized that I'd put together a few good days. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were OK days. Each day, I leaned in a bit more. Each day, nothing hurt. Saturday, for the first time in ages, I woke up early and made it to the 7:15 a.m. start for my 100 kilometer group ride with Coach Rick. I've been afraid of that hour and that ride for some time. I had drifted off that ride even when Pablo was still here. As his treatment wore on, and the cancer recurred to his lungs, I couldn't bear to be without him for five hours on a Saturday morning. With the preciousness of life escalating from an cliche to a concern, I started to cherish waking up with Pablo. Or watching him sleep. Or waiting for him to wake me up by whispering in my ear, 'Papa, let's go upstairs. I'm awake.'

So things have not been normal for a long time. Normal took a long vacation for me. I thrive on structure, goals, order and all that kinda stuff. It was hard for me to be out there in the wilderness of aimless angst. It was disorienting for me. It was an era in which many men grow beards to memorialize the overall feeling of the phase. I am unable to grow a beard, so I have to write words to tell you about my woolly phase.

This is quite a backdrop: beards, razors, aimlessness, the abyss. It really was like that. I say 'was' because that's all starting to change. There's a new scene emerging for me. I'm drilling down deeper in my work and personal lives. I am able to focus, and for longer periods. I remember things a touch better. I even remembered the code for the burglar alarm at our office without looking it up on my Blackberry. My mind has been so preoccupied for so long, that I felt like I got a 100% on a spelling test when the alarm system did its happy-sounding double beep affirmation this morning. I gave myself a gold star.

Tomorrow, I board a plane to, of all places, Las Vegas. If you know me, you know that Las Vegas is my least favorite city in the world. That's because it's not really a city. And because I have never gambled on anything in my life. At least not with money. Lucky for me, I'm not going there looking for a city or to play the odds. I'm going there to talk Pablove Across America—and to personally thank all of our sponsors—at the Interbike convention. Interbike is the annual national bike show, where all the manufacturers show their wares to dealers and civilians alike. Think about the auto show in your city; now exchange the cars for bikes; then exchange giant dudes drooling over giant pickup trucks with skinny cycling-tweaked nerds drooling over carbon fiber and reduced gram weight, and you've got a clear vision of Interbike.

I can assure you I'm one of those nerds. For sure. And this year, I am a nerd with gear sponsors, including the Chicago-based gruppo manufacturer SRAM corporation. (Gruppo is Italian for for group of mechanical parts on a bike—the gears, shifters, brakes, derailleurs.) My SRAM friends Brian Pettit and David Zimberoff have invited me to speak at their beer-inspired happy hour—a magical time at the convention when 500-700 people crowd into their neighborhood (to call it a booth would be a wild misnomer) to guzzle free beer while the featured speaker is propped up on a table, given a wireless mic, and a very captive audience. At least as long as the beer flows.

This opportunity to speak to hundreds of captive cyclists is a real gift. It provides the ideal stage for me to expand the reach of The Pablove Foundation, simply by relaying my story of being an everyman cyclist who came home from a long Saturday ride and found a strange lump in son's abdomen. All of the people who hear my voice tomorrow will understand how turning over the pedals for 3,100 miles in 30 days will allow me to wring out my soul of its confusion, anger and angst. How riding that many miles for that many days will transform my understanding of life.

Pablove Across America is about a bunch of things for me, and for our foundation. Sure, it's a great way to raise funds on a national and international level. There's another significant goal though: expanding the reach of The Pablove Foundation's. Like, getting our message and our mission into the hearts and minds of as many people as possible, and getting them to move their bodies to carry our mission. The cycling world is a key target in this expansion. Not only because I'm, like, riding a bike across the continent, but because, for some reason, cyclists are big-hearted. Think about it: most cycling events have a charity tied to them. Cyclists show up by the hundreds to ride for MS, AIDS, Cancer of all types, food banks, blood banks and on and on. And the king of all cyclists, Lance Armstrong, runs a foundation, and he has returned to bike racing to galvanize the message of his Livestrong Foundation. The other thing about cyclists is, we live online, constantly looking up race results, news on new gear, and tracking the European pro cycling scene.

I am pretty damn excited to go to Las Vegas tomorrow with my buddies Diarmuid and Piero. In many ways, when I step off the plane in that disgrossting city, it will be the start of the Pablove Across America pre-game show. We've spent the past two months building up to Interbike—a one-stop Pablove press and promotion palace.

I have no idea what to expect. One thing I do know: when we board the plane Thursday night to come back to LA, Pablove Across America will be off to the races.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear you are feeling positive and seeing your own steps forward. Pablo would be relieved too, don't you think?

I have appreciated your beautiful and genuine thoughts and feelings as you traverse this most difficult journey.

Pablo is forever.

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your site and foundation today via Twitter. I found myself hooked half way through the vegas post and have been reading your blog ever since. I know the feeling you are looking for on that bike over the 30 days across America. I have just completed my own journey in Australia. 800kms for my little daughter Olivia who we lost 8 years ago. It took us eight years to do it, but that ride was the best experience for wringing out the soul. Burning lots of energy physically and emotionally but well worth it. Bring on next year! Will be following you with much interest from Down Under!

Nancy said...

Fantastic!!! NY warm wishes as always.

Deborah said...

I really like reading this from you, I really do.Rock on Jeff!

Tish said...

You're amazing; we thank your beautiful boy for that.

Wishing you the very best tomorrow as you embark on your Pablove trip to Vegas. We feel the momentum! Pablo is with you!

Unknown said...

One word. Ok, two: FREAKING AWESOME!

Stephanie said...

The Pablove Foundation is living proof that it may have destroyed his body, but it will NEVER destroy his spirit.

Papa's gonna see to that...

Hell yeah.