Friday, December 30, 2011

Note from my brother

It's not very often I receive long messages from family, especially my brother. We've always had a relationship of picking up where we left off instead of keeping in touch extensively. Today, I received an email from my brother about upcoming change in his life that inspired me and made me damn proud to be his lil' bro. Whether your beliefs differ from his or not, you must admire his insight and writing, thus I share with you...

Happy holidays! Happy new year... happy birthday Jesus... happy solstice! In all matter of reality, we should have based the calendar new year around the solstice. I demand calendar reform from this Gregorian bullshit. We could even pretend that Jesus was born on the solstice just to appease the Christians.

I'm looking forward to 2012 with great anticipation. I haven't been this excited and scared and intrigued by coming events in a long time. In fact, I've never felt the way I feel now. I'm living in madness right now. Not in a bad way, just general madness. I think about all the crazy shit I've done in my life and I still can't clear my head of the shockwave set off this fall by a casual spill on my bicycle. The most painful and mind-consuming traumatic injury of my life may be the best thing that ever happened to me. The healing process of the organism is incredible. It's like the awareness of self comes reverberating all around in everything I sense. It didn't happen all at once and it's not just me, but everything around me feels more alive.

As you all know, I've spent my entire life in cruise control. Lucky me, right? I learned at a young age how to tweak the system in my favor. I never cared for school and I definitely never learned anything, but I always did just enough to get by. I've used that same technique over the last decade to manage financial security and good health. But jobs are like relationships. It's no place to be if you don't want it. I could be the best chairlift mechanic in the industry, if that were what I wanted. If I really cared to own the situation, I wouldn't just work on the equipment. I would engineer every chairlift right down to the nuts and bolts to be more efficient and environmentally compatible. But I don't really want to. Basically, I can perform this sort of work, but I'm simply not a mechanic. It's time to be honest with myself and stoke that inner fire again. I've always been comfortable with life changes. It seems I am at my best in times of transition. It's the idea of job security which frightens me. It's the security which dulls the mind. But life transition offers the chance to sharpen the edges and focus on execution. But where's the passion? What to do? It didn't come to me as an epiphany. All I needed was a few seeds. Once the thoughts were planted, I watered them with research and life began to appear in a far more peculiar fashion. Never has anything so changed my fundamental perception of the world than the combination of a few seeds in the past year. Yeah, so breaking my face was a 'seed', or more directly a wake-up call.

Who are we to impose our values on the future

- Another 'seed' came from a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer. Aubrey de Grey is a prominent gerontologist who believes that aging is completely not necessary. Seriously, check him out on youtube. Essentially, he doesn't see any reason why we should just accept death and aging as a natural process when we have evolved to manipulate our way out of natural processes. He believes we can manipulate ourselves on the cellular and bacterial levels to refresh and re-up our bodies through therapy. What caught my attention wasn't the general subject of immortality, but rather the fact that he admits it may not occur in his life time. But he has dedicated the rest of his life to bringing light upon a subject that people today find not only controversial but demoniacal on many levels. "Who are we to impose our values on future generations." This was the line that got me thinking. This was a seed.

So I thought to myself, what if people from millennia past foresaw the future and left warnings in place to tell us that our way of life is wrong. Some people may say, 'yeah, you're right let's go back to the old ways.' But I think most people would defend their lives. If the past generations altered things to the point which current time were effectively and fundamentally different, we wouldn't be here. Our families, our cities and all the things we know would be gone. Would you allow past generations to alter our evolution in such a manner?

I truly believe that nothing but recyclable matter exists after death. All life occurs within the realm of respiring cells in the ever-constant process of decay. A friend of mine once questioned the enduring sadness of this position. She even accused me of being a depressive and hopeless being who should have more faith in the simple joys of life. Sadly enough, she is missing my point. In theory, all life concedes to the perpetual cycle of the next generation. Whether an afterlife exists or not, I have no interest in what lies beyond. What could be more liberating than living for this life, and this life only? Why rest any hope on going to heaven when heaven is here on earth? This is it. Love it, respect it, study it, own the experience. To me, life is religion. God didn't make man in his image. We make god in our image. Again, evolution. We can become masters of our own destinies. We won't be around for it, and we won't always be rememered, but life in some form is immortal. I do believe this.

Right Now-

Worship? Why not worship the true creator of all life as we know it. I dig our world's creative relationship with the star in our daylight sky. Creation is due solely to the nearly improbable events of the last four billion years. The chances of this particular experience of life in all it's odd and unusual forms is nearly infinite. The connection is perfect in it's way simply because of the reality that it even exists. That is to say nearly impossible, one can only guess at the sum of trillions of a trillion billion chances at this exact outcome. Earth is a cell in the universal sea of outer space. Just like the first single-cell organisms which appeared in the shallow tides and the volcanic soils of the young earth, we appear in microcosm wading through the cradle of life. Simple prokaryotic cells born of base elements, electrified by ultraviolet radiation, who photosynthesized for over one billion years just to release enough oxygen over the surface of the waters to create an ozone membrane and allow for an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The evolving complexity of organisms over the next two and a half billion years, along with the complexity of atmospheric cycles has given way to a species whose dashing attempts of conquest and desire for understanding had driven all life to the brink of fatal pressures. Our greatest imaginations cannot comprehend the rarity of our current circumstances. There are so many questions and endless mystery to life. There is so much we'll never learn so much we'll never know, but we'll never stop asking the questions. We will never cease to uncover the mysteries. I just want to live like heaven is here on earth. This is it. I want to draw the most accurate connections to natural world. I'm going back to college to study biology. I hate academia, but right now it is going to provide the right framework around my self-education. I need to surround myself with like-minded people for once in my life. People seeking truth in life. So there you have it, back to school next fall. That's all I've been trying to say here. CSU or CU Denver to burn up my GI Bill for a couple years of undergrad core curricula, then on to grad school and an everlasting life of continuous education and research.

Sorry I had to drag that out so big, just trying to get the idea across.Let's skype soon, Love you bro!

Love you too hermano, suerte en 2012 :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blissful moment

Tense, all tense muscles remind me I'm not breathing properly. My shoulders, my neck, my face all tight and caught up in the world of responsibility. Managing a tour business in high season, based on level of service. Keep our service level high, keep our friendly faces smiling, keep our name in the right light. So many thoughts, anxiety level inclines until I remember to inhale.

I stretch the legs, set aside twenty minutes. Emails, you leave me alone for a minute. Phone, shut the hell up for just a minute, maybe even twenty. People, give me this moment. Take it easy, just for this moment, shhhhh.

Hamstrings stretch, quadriceps stretch, breathe in... breathe out. Gluteus maximus, stretch to the maximus, so tight from the pedaling motion. I'm sure lucky to be complaining in my mind about a job that I absolutely love I think in each stretch.

My position transfers to lotus, stillness. Just... breathe!

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... hold... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Email the accountant, respond to Alejandro, call Ingrid...

The thoughts make their way quickly to the moment of stillness. Invited or not, thoughts find their way in the backdoors and sidedoors of the mind, even the doggy doors. My awareness stops them in their place, then lets them pass.

Remember to update finances, check bike maintenance log, go buy a few onions for dinner...

Through the sidedoor perhaps? My awareness becomes scissors and cuts the tangle of thoughts invading this moment, cut them away... they float away in pieces.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... Hold.... Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The muscles begin to relax a bit after several rounds of uninterrupted breathing.

Hmm, rice, veggies and chicken or pasta? I'm hungry, what's for dinner?

Just breathe, be here, be now.

But my stomach is growling, listen to the body right? I need to call my benzinha tonight and email my family.

Inhale 1-8... Hold... Exhale 8-1.

I feel lighter, with each exhale the muscles loosen and the tension gives way to slack.

More thoughts arise, this time, I don't fight them as I usually do. Accept the thought, observe it, embrace it fully. This thought is here for a reason, it snuck it's way through the windows of my mind and I greet each one that comes through with a smile and a hug.

Poof... stillness... bliss.

Moments of absolutamente nada proceed, no thoughts occur, sneak in, nor ring the mental doorbell. I've embraced them and they're gone.

Inhale 1-10... Hold... Exhale 1-10. Light fills my bloodstream, each blood cell is a particle of light. I'm not longer physical matter but rather a field of energy. Energy connecting with other forms of energy, all flowing on different wavelengths, but flowing nonetheless. The bird chirp outside the window, the honking in the distance, the smell of eucalyptus from the candle are all inside of me, the world is inside of me.. why? Because it's in my head, it's my perception. This eucalyptus candle may smell different to you, the honking and bird chirps may come across your ears differently, but it's your perception, in your world. Breathe in, let it go.

This moment is bliss, this moment is peace, this moment is meditation. And just like the moments of stress, tension and dis-ease... this too, will pass.

Happy Holidays, may they be filled with moments of joy, peace and love.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Confessions of a 26 year old

Here I sit practically in my own pile of vomit, what have I just ingested? Where am I?....
Quién soy (who am I)? My mind races at a rather calm, curious pace. The ants crawling around in this dark liquid that was just in my tummy make me question if these ants were just in my stomach. What just happened to my life?

It's October 1st, 2010, three days after I turned 26...

I observe my surroundings, the tree above me blows lightly in the wind and the hillsides in front out in the distance show off their greenery. The chant of shamans fade in and out. "Yaaa haaayy ayaaahh," they echo from high and low in this state of continuous observation. No judgement arises, no level of curiosity falls. Suddenly, I am connected to the universe in and around me. Brief moments of simplicity and beauty somehow justify the fact that I'm sprawled on a grassy hill with my insect buddies taking in the scenery across the rolling Colombian countryside. About forty minutes prior, I ingested ayahuasca, a drink made from a vine native to the Ecuadorian/Colombian region of South America. Widely popular among indigenous people of this region, yaje (ya hay), it's local name, is used as more of a spiritual experience to purge the bad energies out of one's body. It literally purges you, causing you to vomit all of the parasites out of your stomach. A friend in our hostel invited us to come along and here we find ourselves, surrounded by Shamans burning sage and incense chanting away.
I gaze at the beauty around me and begin to reflect on my life as if I'm on my death bed. I first think of family, every single one of my family members and what they mean to me and how they've shaped me. I want them to be here with me, experiencing this. But, I know this is an experience I must keep as my own. I have never felt so close to truth. With my mind at peace, I enter my own little confessional...

Twenty six revolutions around the sun and I reflect.
I've tasted the sweet nectar of a freshly-squeezed maracuya in Bogota, papaya in Cartagena and Acaí in Rio de Janeiro. The smell of a woman's perfume has knocked me upside the head and silly before.
My heart has been broken, repaired, broken again, and now in the process of becoming the heart Neil Young was searching for... made of gold. I've broken the hearts of others, I've made others cry only to bring about my own tears. I've made peoples' days while making others sick to their stomach. I've found that it's not worth it trying to have my cake and eat it too, only so many calories of greed can be had in this life before it turns into heartache.

I've lied, stolen, cheated and have felt the consequences of all three.
My sight and hearing have worsened while my intuition has improved.
I've seen some of the most beautiful landmarks this world has to offer, yet I've seen so very little. I've come to realize, the more I see, the less I know.
I've preached to the choir and have practiced what I preach, at times. I'm human, I too have made many mistakes and have been hypocritical.
According to Einstein's definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting different results), I've been insane more than several times in my life. I've walked like an Egyptian to Cyndi Lauper and done the walk of life to Dire Straights. My fondest memories are road trips with my family to California listening to Canned Heat and CCR. Memories of eating dinners at Uncle Donn and Jerry's made me feel never too far away from family while at college. Through it all, I've been one lucky dude. Maybe it's the red hair or maybe from some good deeds but throughout the years, I've been very surprised at how lucky I am in this life. I realized it when I was volunteering in 'villas' outside of Buenos Aires, when I was talking to a man with no legs in the streets of Bogota and when I ride my bike past people in wheelchairs. Not everyone starts with the same set of tools in this life but I've seen some do more with less and some less with more. In the end, it's up to us, each and every one of us to shape our own life. I just realize, I've been lucky to have received a good set of tools in my life, not literally speaking. I'm one of the least mechanically inclined people I know.

My family has been the rock that has propelled me into this great, big, scary world of opportunities. I've felt what it's like to be on top of the world, only to then be in the gutter. I've felt like a King at times and a failure other times. I've come to know that feelings are only that, feelings and nothing else. They come and they go. But one thing remains certain, as long as I'm human, they'll always come back... the happy, the sad, the disappointment, the envy, the content. Each and every one of them will come and they'll go.
Through it all, I've come to see that there is only one thing eternal, this moment. This moment, right here and right now is all we really have control of. I've come to see that this is easier said than done. My realizations have also led me to belive I still know very little than what I'll know in the next 26 years, this intrigues me.
I've come to believe all we are is energy and information. We transform energy in different forms and gather information through our own conditioned ways. I've come to believe in technology but adore the ways without technology. Letters, phone calls and personal visits go much further today in a world of texting, emailing, tweeting and facebooking.
Through it all, I realize that the first 26 years of my life has been one hell of a rollercoaster and I have no regrets. Every moment has taught me something and brought me to where I am today. None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and friends. The biggest revelation I've had in my first 26, now 27, years of life is that I am just a human being with as many faults, aspirations and desires as the rest of you. I like to recite Lynard Skynard's words, "I'm a simple kind of man." When I start making things complex in my life, my happiness goes away. To a point I enjoy challenges, they push me to be a better person and expand my vision. I have also come to enjoy the simpler things in life; sitting on a porch with family watching the day pass, eating fruit, taking a bike ride, whistling a favorite tune, listening without interrupting, 'being' rather than always 'doing' and most importantly saying "I love you."
Because in the end, that's all we really need right!?
Today I turn 27, it's been a year since I had that spiritual experience with the Shamans in Colombia. It will be one that was good while it lasted and shaped my search for truth in everything.
Turn the page, to the next chapter in life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coffee & a Cigarette?!

Strolling down the cafeteria-filled streets of Buenos Aires, you're bound to see los Argentinos sipping cafe and smoking a pucho, Argentine slang for cigarette. This country has one of the higher rates of cigarette consumption in South America. The people of Buenos Aires, porteños, also make a habit of visiting their psychiatrist, is there a correlation? Maybe, maybe not however my experiences being a resident here over the last several years confirms one thing, these people stress a lot. You see it in their faces on the public transportation and walking down the streets. It could stem from any number of things, but one thing is for certain, their stress leaves for brief moments when sipping their cappucino and smoking their cigarillo.

I was walking down Avenida Santa Fe the other day and I realized that everyone sitting in front of the Parisian-styled cafes had a cigarette and a cafe. Two very active stimulants turning their stressed frowns upside down. I for a brief moment wondered, what's so great about this?
My addiction is more on the healthy side, yerba mate and riding my bicycle. However, I wanted to be Porteño for brief few moments and see what this is all about. I had an extra 8 pesos in my pocket to spare for a cafe con leche (coffee with a splash of milk), so I ordered at the next cafeteria I walked past. With an extra 30 minutes to spare in my daily tasks, I indulged into the more toxic stimulants to feel a little bit more Argentine. Or maybe I was looking for the ultimate teeth-staining experience. Either way, I was missing one thing... a pucho. It didn't take me long asking the old man at the table next to me, "me regalás un pucho por favor, señor?" He gladly allowed me into his world of stimulants. With a flick of the lighter, I was one shrink short of being fully porteño.

To be honest it wasn't as bad as I expected, I could see how these people can become so dependent on these fixes. I can just see my parents back home now saying "noooooooo, don't you dare pick up drinking coffee.... nor puchos!"

Not to worry, after exactly 23 minutes of people-watching, pucho in hand and sipping cafe, I felt a little buzz but was looking for water to rinse out the disgusting after taste. Well, that was fun being porteño on Avenida Santa Fe for a brief moment. It was a good moment but one that confirmed that I have the right addictions. Time to go back to being a gringo on a bike,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Padre

One of my greatest inspirations for succeeding in life, my padre Kenneth Karl Gerlach. He's raised me since I could barely walk. Legally he is my step father. Far from the legalities, he's been the father that I've needed every step of the way. He's played a huge role in making me the man I am today. Although I may not be wealthy in profits... yet. I am wealthy in experience, support and love. Thank you Padre. I wish you the happiest year of your life. Feliz Cumpleaños, I love you!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Foreigner with a Smile

He's no Argentine, it's apparent in his facial structure, hair color, wardrobe and funky gringo accent. The looks he attracts are felt from all angles on the streets, in the buses and in the subway systems. We're all people watching, other people watching me... rings Jack Johnson in the earphones. They all take at least two looks up and down, not on purpose. It's more out of genuine curiosity. Look how this stranger dresses, it's not like us, where is he from? The body language is even different. The stranger feels a bit uncomfortable the looks drape his every move. He takes a deep breath, swallows his shaken confidence and throws a nonverbal bomb. It's one that comes unexpectedly and immediately disarms those around him. All of the sudden, the tension the foreigner feels is diffused with this unspoken message. Everything returns to normal and the people feel more accepting to this non-Argentine.

All of this with a simple smile. Some of these people appear as if their facial tissues and muscles have forgotten how to form a smile. All it takes is one dimple to remind them. Why not let the foreigner initiate the good energy... all with a smile :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mother Nature Wins

I look at the clock on my cell phone, it reads 15:00. Yup, it's tour time. Here I stand at Plaza Dorrego with the bikes ready to go and nobody shows.

15:01, the clouds release and the showers begin to rain down on the bikes and myself. Everyone takes cover in their stores. Yet, I, well I must get all of the bikes back in their respective storage space... 3 blocks away in a garage. I start by locking the bikes I'm leaving and taking 2 bikes at a time down the cobblestone road of Avenida Defensa. People in the cafes look at me confused. ''What is this gringo doing running with 2 bikes down the street in a rainstorm?" I look back and muster a smile. Two bikes locked safely in the garage, now time to run back to Plaza Dorrego for the rest. Again, 2 at a time.

"Oye, there goes that same gringo running with 2 more bikes in this torrential downpour." What is that boludo thinking?

Rewind several weeks: Biking BA has decided to store bikes in a garage several blocks from a highly touristy plaza. Lo bueno: It's very affordable to store the bikes in a garage near a closer location to our South Tours. Lo malo: We must arrive at least an hour in advance to transport the bikes from the garage to the meeting point, 2 at a time. It's not the most efficient way of preparing for a tour, but 'es lo que hay.'

So there I am, 20 minutes into the storm, drenched and defeated. Nobody showed for the tour, rainstorm duh. I had heard it was going to rain but I went to set up for the tour anyways, hoping the weather man was wrong. Dedicated or stupid? You tell me.

I then hop on my bike and make the ride back to Palermo area, 45 minutes away in the rain. The water drips out of the foam handlebars as I cruise through the slowing storm at a leisurely pace. The taste of defeat, oh so bittersweet.

Then I ride past a young man with no legs in a wheel chair, wheeling himself down a puddle-filled sidewalk with a smile on his face. A health dose of perspective sinks into my bones. It could always be worse. What am I bitching about? Sometimes, a little perspective is all we really need.

I love Buenos Aires for that reason, whenever something may seem upsetting or negative, turn the corner and you'll find a good dose of perspective. It lies in the faces of each cartonero.

The rest of the ride home, I carry a smile and know that tomorrow the sun will shine and another tour awaits. For now, I feel warm in the cold rain knowing I have a place to sleep tonight and am surrounded by good friends and family all around. More tours will come and the next time, maybe I'll believe the weather man.

Spanish phrase learning:
boludo- A common term in Argentina used between friends. Literally means someone who's head is filled with air, like a ball. Can mean fool or friend, depends on how it's said.

es lo que hay- Also very common here. Literally translates to 'it's all there is.' Used often in terms for settling for what there is.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vale La Pena

It's 2:37am local time Buenos Aires, Argentina. The freshly brewed yerba mate injects caffeine to keep my brain cranking away at the Biking BA business plan. This has been a work in progress for over 4 months, has changed over 30 times. The end goal? To get investment into our company.

The process, many nights like this analyzing the risks of investing in this simple business. Remember my talks about keeping things simple? I do my best to practice what I preach. This has been a challenging project. And that's why I love it. I take a second to step back and look at my life....

Here I sit, a 26 year old kid with some ambition to create something much larger than myself. It's a Friday night, no wait, 2:38am Saturday morning. The friends are out partying and I'm sitting here looking at potential risk analysis charts, SWOT analyses and many other theoretical business practices that we can make practical in our business. Is it worth it (vale la pena)? Who knows, who cares. This is where I chose to be at this point of my life and I must say, no complaints. Putting in this extra work, even if it doesn't lead to results and goals desired, is part of growing. It's about the journey, not the destination. The last 100 days or so that I've been in Buenos Aires trying to start a business has been the most educational time of my life. Everyday, I'm amazed at what I don't know. I feel that I know less every day.

How cool is that? Everyday, class is back in session. The name of this course... life! It's tough kid, life isn't for wimps I've heard. What is being learned by trying to start a business in Argentina?

Patience, first and foremost. This has to be one of the most inefficient countries on the globe. The exchange rate is 4 pesos to the 1dollar, it also takes 4 times as long to do what takes 1 time in the states--> patience!

Communication. From calling manufacturers to emailing vendors in Spanish, this has been one of the most challenging... yet rewarding.

Creativity. With limited resources financially speaking, we are forced to make the most of what we have. For example with the limited amount of bikes in stock, we've put out the idea of bike sponsorships. People or companies sponsor a bike and get their name on the bike. We will also put ads on our rental bikes and charge a low monthly advertising fee for the mobile ad space. This will help with some extra cashflow in the meantime--> un poco creativity.
By the way, a special thanks to those who have already sponsored a bike!

These are just a few lessons one may learn in pursuing a passionate project.

In our case, even if our company doesn't end up where we envisioned it, we will certainly be better than before because the journey has far more significance than the destination in this classroom called life. Happy learning!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life is Short.. Live it Your Way.

The image you see above is the brilliant manifesto by our friends at Holstee clothing. This might as well be my personal manifesto that I never took the time to think of, if that makes sense. Everything in this manifesto is how I strive to live my life, so thanks for the reminder Holstee friends. If you're like most every other human with a pulse and a healthy sense of curiosity, you've probably felt lost in your life before. Then you find yourself, then lose yourself again. What is this cycle all about?

I don't know! But it's a great question that I've vowed not to ask myself anymore.

I don't have all of the answers for why things happen in my own life and I feel ok saying that you shouldn't have all of the answers to the mysteries in your life. Let's remember that life truly is simple, it was never meant to be complicated... but we human beings complicate life and blame it on... life itself. Let's not confuse simplicity and ease. Life is not always easy, nor should it be. How would we grow and evolve as human beings without challenges and the 'life is so damn hard' moments? The difficult moments are usually our most telling times as we learn more about ourselves in the never ending pursuit of 'finding ourselves.' More often than not, our actions and emotions are products of our minds. The mind is a tricky bastard, don't let it control you, dictate you or demoralize you. Remember, life is short! Why live your whole life trapped in the complexities created by the mind?

Yesterday, an Argentine lady jumped off of a 23-story building and came crashing down on top of a taxi, without the driver in it. The building she chose to end her life off of is called the Panamericano. It is known for its roof-top bar with a great view over Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, one of the best views in the city. She must have been caught up in her mind and lost all hope and then decided to make life shorter than it already is. Yet, fortunately for her family, she survived. Yes, she survived the fall, probably thanks to the taxi cab saving her life. Who knew taxis provided such life-saving services? Ok, all jokes aside, this is a miracle. Anyone hopping from higher than 10 stories is usually applying for their one way ticket to their respective after-life destinations. This Argentine lady is going to wake up in her hospital bed with 2 broken hips, internal bleeding but is expected to survive. Hopefully, she'll reward the angels looking over her.. and the taxi that was below her by living her life her way this time.

What if you came face to face with death? Picture death as a person smiling at you and daring to grab your hand, kiss you, and pull you to the other side. In reality, isn't that what death is? Death is our best friend, reminding us to not take life for granted. The beauty of our friend death is that it is staring us in the face each moment of every day, whether we know it or not. Any one of these moments could be our last... Now, is it so hard to live your life?

Author note: This post is not intended to inject fear in any of my readers and I apologize in advance if it has. It is intended as a friendly reminder to take a deep breath, smile, and live YOUR life!