The Rule of B
By Tom Martyn
Looking back, thereís an arc to my life, a trajectory that brought me to
precisely this moment. Itís hard to see from day to day, in the confusion
of working and raising kids, but every now and then, I catch a glimpse of
it, and I see that everything is just as itís supposed to be. That seems to
happen mostly when Iím riding my bike, but thatís jumping to the end of the
The story begins with The Rule of B. The Rule of B is not written
anywhere, itís not the result of a scientific investigation, and itís
entirely possible that itís completely wrong. I discovered it after years
of observing my own life, and I now share it with you. The Rule states,
ďThe best things in life all begin with B.Ē
My first inkling of this rule came about when I discovered Babes. Duh.
This is the good stuff. Not that Iíve been particularly successful, but at
least Iím enjoying the ride. Somewhere along the route, I fell in with one
particular Babe who in a fit of madness agreed to marry me, and itís been
mostly great for 24 years. Of course I still enjoy Babes; like my friend
Markís wife says, it doesnít matter where you get your appetite, as long as
you eat at home.
Then thereís Beer. Or Booze, if you prefer. There is nothing like a
cold one, especially with friends after a long, hot ride, and I have surely
explored everything Beer has to offer. Iíve spent two weeks touring
breweries in Belgium, the undisputed epicenter of Beer in the known
universe. Iíve learned to make beer, won a lot of awards, and become a
National Beer Judge. And I came to drink a lot, and often, by myself, not
to share my life with my friends, but to try to hide from my own life, which
somehow had become as uncomfortable as riding a century with my shorts on
backwards. And I still love Beer, and itís still one of the best things in
life. But we have a different relationship these days.
The Buddha helped me change that. Somewhere in my psychedelic youth I
caught a glimmer of something beyond myself, and that thread brought me to
meditation and Buddhism. I threw myself into the practice of Zen, and
encountered the Buddhaís First Noble Truth, that life is suffering. The arc
of my life was nudged onto a different trajectory. Itís hard to accept that
everything we want, hold, desire and cherish will change, die or be lost.
But itís undeniably true, and itís the flailing around trying to avoid this
truth that creates pain and harm. Only by accepting and living with our
suffering can we find peace and ease.
In 1997, my wife bought me a road bike for Christmas. A Bicycle. In
fact, a Bianchi. I weighed 235 pounds, was smoking a pack plus a day,
drinking lots of Beer and Bourbon, looking down the loaded barrel of my
life. Sometime in March, after the roads were clear of snow, I went out for
a 10 mile wobble, survived it, called George and told him about it. George
is an old friend, has been riding for years, and shares my love of
Buddhism. He said, great, letís go for a ride, Iíll show you some cool
roads. And a couple of days later, we went spinning down Route 142 to
Vernon, and eventually turned right onto Huckle Hill Road.
I probably didnít notice the name that day. Paying attention to the
names of unfamiliar roads is a skill you learn later. But Iíve ridden it
many times since, and I know now that the road is a mile-long assault on the
face of Huckle Hill, with an average grade of 8 or 9%, a couple of ramps at
18% or so, and nowhere to recover before the top. Long before the first
steep, I was gasping, sweating, weaving, and watching George, one of the
best local climbers, spin away into the distance. My morale crumbled, I
cracked, I blew, I walked.
But as I walked, something awoke in me, a memory of my childhood, of
living on my tricycle, then on my two-wheeler, of gangs of neighborhood kids
racing around the block, of jumping dirt piles at the construction site at
the end of the street, of a three day, 200 mile, hilly ride with my Dad when
I was 12, on three speed Humbers with cast iron frames, of the wind on my
face and idiot glee in my heart.
Last summer, I started beating George up the hills. Granted, he hasnít
been riding as much as he used to, but thatís his problem, not mine. I try
to ride four or five times a week now, and I hang with the best local
riders. I might try racing next year. George and I were talking about
riding a couple of months ago, one of our constant topics, and I twitted him
about taking poor me up Huckle Hill on my second ride. He smiled at me, and
said, ďI knew youíd understand the suffering.Ē
Damn, George, you got that right. I weigh a lot less now, I havenít
smoked in five years, I still love beer but its more like weíre friends than
lovers, and I still ride the Bianchi although Iím building up a Trek OCLV
120 frame with a Campy Record gruppo. On my bike, I penetrated to the
heart of the Buddhaís teaching Ė it really is all about suffering, but when
you embrace it, it transforms into something else. It transforms into your
life, and itís good.
And lately Iíve been noticing more and more great looking Babes on bikes.