Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wow.

A little more than five years ago I made a deal with my wife. I argued at the time that I was some talented young artist that was going to do things correctly and sell a bunch of work and creatively make things for a living. At the time of the agreement I had five years to make it work. Five years to become financially successful with my efforts. Five years to live my dreams. Five years.

As I write this I sit in the faintly lit room that has become my office, my bedroom and the place I go to when I feel the need to get things straightened out. My favorite mix is playing on Pandora and I am looking backwards. Looking backwards at five years of sleepless nights and midnight meetings and carefully executed efforts to try and make something that would be able to support my family so that we could begin the next stage of our lives.

I am 31 years old. I have a beautiful wife. I have a nine year old daughter who lives in Rhode Island with her mother and step-father as well as a five year old daughter and a three year old son, both of whom live with my wife and I. I have a mediocre education with no degree. Aside from a group show in Chicago in 2006 and some odds and ends appearances at local coffee shops, I have no real record of ever having done anything successful with my artwork. I have chased what I thought was something I could catch. I have tried to make it work. I have applied for shows and been rejected time and time again. I have strained my marriage to the extreme. I have spent my five years.

It’s done. The deal is over. The time has come for me to hang up my hat and get back in line, but before I do I want to say something.

I built a goddamn bike race. A bike race that I will not make anyone pay for. A bike race that has no potential to earn anything. A bike race that I will take to my grave and cherish for the rest of my life. I built something that takes more time and energy than anything I have ever done in my entire life. I built something that I love. I found cycling and I found racing and I took those two things and I did something with them. I started a race and invited some people and tried to give them the best experience that they could possibly have. I did it. I took everything I new about hospitality and design and art and I applied it to something that I thought would make a difference. I started a project that has brought more people into its fold than I would have ever anticipated. I documented every possible angle of the last four years and I have done it without question. I have done it with pride. I have become a better cyclist for it. I am stronger than when I started. I am faster than when I started. I am different than when I started.

All of that and I was unable to hold up my end of the deal. Five years are done. I have no money and no real chance of getting any. My wife and I have retained an attorney and we have begun the process to file for bankruptcy. I have tried to sell my bikes, which is something I swore I would never do. I have tried to sell our car. I am working for three different employers right now. I am so incredibly fucking lost right now I cannot even begin to put it into words.

I quit my job of ten years because I could no longer live with working for people who didn’t care about their employees. I thought I was standing up for what is right and while I still stand behind my decision, I know deep down it was the wrong thing to do financially. I made a mistake. I tried to do the right thing for the right reason and now I am paying for it. Which leads me to believe that everything in this goddamn world is a bunch of shit and unless you charge everyone and their brother for anything and everything there is no positive outcome. If you’re not the one pulling the money in then you’re the one throwing it on the goddamn floor so that your unbelievable fucking prick boss can rake it all up.

Four years I spent building the Almanzo. Four years hoping that it would open a door somewhere. Four years trying my hardest to make it the best race of it’s kind. Four years trying to raise the bar so that others who made races would have something to aim for and here I am. At the end of a five year agreement with nowhere else to turn, but back to the fucking slave owners that I so despise. Time to get back in the trenches and work the shitty hours for next to nothing while the owner gets fat fucking rich. Time to put on the fucking monkey suit and smile because it means more money. Time to say yes sir and yes ma’am because it means two dollars instead of one. Time to not “give” anything away because “we gotta keep an eye on our food costs” or “we gotta keep an eye on our liquor costs”. Well you know what? I don’t really give a shit about your costs! Maybe if you were a little more generous with your stuff, people would return the favor.

The race will live and I will be there for every moment of it, just as I have for the last four years. I will continue to ride my bike and hopefully get faster and stronger. I have enjoyed every single second that this Almanzo project has been alive. I look forward to what comes for it in the years ahead. I hope the things like the Gentlemen’s Ride and the photo installation and the film and everything else that has touched the Almanzo flourish and people come and go and take their experience back to their own lives and share this idea of giving and giving with everyone they meet.

I don’t have solutions right now and frankly it seems as though I’ve run out of ideas for a spell, but I trust that everything will work out. Everything will be just as it is supposed to be. The bankruptcy will be old news someday. The money will return. I will find my financial (read:career) path and everything will be fine. Someday.
I realize this may not be the place for this, but this is my life. This blog is the artwork I have spent the last five years working on. This blog and this race. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all at the Gentlemen’s Ride or in May or at some other point in between.

6 comments:

Buckshot77 said...

Powerful, meaningful, truthful. The lightness will always be so much more enjoyed when preceeded by darkness. Just don't be lost in the darkness. Keep fighting bro!

Anonymous said...

Come ride with me this Sunday! We'll ride. We'll talk. We'll have spaghetti.

Brian Dukek said...

Chris,

I wish I was able to come to the Gentleman's ride, but my wife will be away for the weekend and I have the kids. Any chance I could scam some route cards off of you so I could do it on my own some time in the future? I would be willing to reimburse you for your efforts.

As for the life events, I am sorry things didn't work out with your dreams. I turned my back on some dreams once because I didn't think things would work out, and now I will always wonder "what if". At the very least, you have the consolation that you will never need to wonder. You had the balls to try, and though it didn't work out you were man enough to make the attempt.

Chris Skogen said...

Rick(Buckshot) & Chris(Anonymous), thanks for the support. I certainly appreciate it.

Brian, thank you too. As far as the route cards go, I have piles of them just lying around the house. Let me know how I can get them to you and it will be done. And don't worry about the "reimbursement", I literally have piles of them.

pedalgrl said...

This single solitary line, amongst the other single solitary lines in your all-too-familiar post beat its chest me:

"…this goddamn world is a bunch of shit and unless you charge everyone and their brother for anything…"

Please don't forget one thing YOU made possible - and it's a big deal to me - so listen up. YOU created the opportunity for a 37 year old, chunky, newbie cyclist chick to push forward and reach goals SHE sure as hell never thought possible.

It wasn't ME that I was thinking about while sweating and snorting up practice hills pre-Almanzo. It wasn't ME that knew what a race was all about. It wasn't ME that that got to watch ME cross the finish line. It was YOU. It was the Almanzo for fucksake. Now, I am not trying to virtually hump your goddamn leg (or ego), but rather instill in you the idea that when WE do for OTHERS goddamn KARMA will goddamn come.

Goddamnit it better.

Also- YOU taught US how to be graceful under pressure. YOU taught US how to organize a bike race while passion for the sport drips - no - oozes out of your pores. So whether or not you feel you have been recognized or appreciated for your artistry and constructive efforts, you have.

I'm not lighting candles for you in my bedroom or anything, nor do I have RENEGADE posters all over my house. OK, I do have 1 Almanzo poster at home and a patch at work and a sticker on my car. But you are a good and true a real cyclist. For that I respect you.

Oh- and your beautiful wife...SHE got me interested in the race at the very beginning. And for that I am utterly grateful.

So Mr. Skogen, you AND your wife are a goldmine of wildly creative and inventive humanity. You will scratch your way out of this economic hurricane, just like I did "nearly" finishing the Almanzo last. But goddamnit, this fat old lady did it!

I remember cursing the wind, crying no tears, growling as my bike darted toward the ditches when side/head winds hit just right. With every mile, more anguish, more determination, more fire.

Use your fire.
Listen for cowbells.
More cowbells.
We're all here for you.

JayPee said...

Chris, like others, I'm sorry it didn't work out like you had hoped, but at least you tried and that's more than most people ever do. What did you get out of it all? A beautiful wife, kids, and like pedalgrl says, an amazing goddamned race that forced us all to look deep within ourselves to complete.

Money troubles pass, your creative spirit and the glory we all share because of it are forever.

Thank you.