From 309 to 4 and “oh!”.. Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Today is my 40th birthday.  A birthday that I was NOT guaranteed to celebrate.  I just looked back in this blog to the several entries around my 309th birthday and things were frankly quite grim!  We were JUST getting the news of my recurrence and learning what we could about the reality of that situation.  The doctors that we saw all agreed that without treatment I had 6 – X months to live, where X ranged from 8 to 12.  “Fine, I’ll take 12!” I said, and refused treatment.  So here we are 12 months later, and there is no question that I am a sick man..  I take a fistful of pills three times a day in order to keep pain at bay, to stay upright when I want to be upright, and to stay asleep when that’s my preference..  But I am NOT dead.  I don’t look dead.. I don’t behave dead.. and for the most part I don’t feel dead.

Furthermore, I did NOT spend the last year making trips to the doctors office for treatment that would have left me feeling terrible with no promise of results.  I think back and realize that I packed more living into the last year than I’ve managed to fit into any other single year of my life.*

I began writing in the last post about my long conditioned feelings about this time of year.  About the sense of finality that comes with the holidays for me.  For quite a while now my birthday has felt like the horizon.  When I made it to the scary six month mark that they warned me about the natural next landmark was this birthday. I felt as though it would be quite fitting and natural to diminish during the fall, with the failing light, and die right around my birthday, proving to the docs that I had outlived all but their very most optimistic predictions.  But here we are, and I’m feeling fine!  Ok.  Well.  That’s a patent lie.  I don’t feel fine, exactly.  I feel like hell a lot of the time.  Most recently, I’ve started to loose function in my left hand and forearm. Numbness, nerve pain, loss of strength and control, etc… BUT what I mean is that I feel miles and miles from dead.  This is going to take a serious mental adjustment.  A new horizon!  I’m not sure what that should be.  Hillary’s birthday is March 2nd..  But that would be a really crummy birthday present.  I would love to see Nova Scotia again..  The earliest we ever really go up there is May.  Is that too long?  Another 6 months?

At any rate..  The whole thing leaves me feeling a bit untethered.  I had a good reference point.  I had a script that made some sense, but my body did not cooperate.  Now that this birthday has come, I’m feeling a bit at sea.  But that’s not a terrible way to feel  (better than dead, I’m thinking..).

I have been shooting a lot with the hasselblad Xpan that I bought recently.  I love the format.  I love the narrative quality of such a wide frame.  I had a roll of Ilford fp4 in it last that I shot more or less in two bursts.  One burst of shots of Hill working on the day bed in our bedroom, while Putney slept snuggled up to her legs.  And one burst of Monkey Business shots of me and Glen goofing around up on the roof.  I took one lonely shot between those two bursts, though.  I was taking the camera down to the shop with me one day, just in case, and I stepped out the door and saw the fresh snow.  I pulled the camera out just to see what I could frame there from the top of the stoop..  I was checking the light.. the aperture.. figuring out where to focus.  I put the camera up to my face and was looking around for a photograph.  I suddenly became aware that someone was walking down the sidewalk and was slowing down because I was taking a picture.  So without even thinking I just pulled the trigger, and dropped the camera from my face.

“What are you doing?”  It was Hillary.  I didn’t even know that she was out..  I thought she was behind me, back in the house.  Suddenly I got very flustered..  I mean, what WAS I doing?  I hadn’t really had time to see if there was a picture there.

“Ah..  Just taking pictures of this white on white!”

“What white on white?”

I started looking around for something obvious to point to and came up short.  It had just been an impulse, and I wasn’t really sure that it had been a good impulse.

“I’m just headed down to the shop to work on stools,” I said.

That shot turned out to be my favorite shot on the role, though.  I actually find it quite moving.  Maybe you’ll see it too, maybe not.  I printed up a copy this morning, and it’s stunning.  It was my intention to put it up for sale today maybe as a last minute x-mas present for someone..   I’ve run out of time, though.  I need to take a shower and get dressed and head over to my birthday party.  BUT, maybe I’ll put it up tomorrow morning.  Just that print.  Glen and Hill and Putney are all very cute, but for me, that lonely photo is the most interesting.  I’ll make it available just in the US, and if I ship by friday, it should make it to you by x-mas.  Now.  I need to go to my party.  Fast Boy OUT!







*A partial list of things that spring to mind!

  • Built the UTA
  • Rode the UTA all around Westchester and Vermont
  • Traveled around Europe with Hill and Glen and Hedi
  • Took lots of photos, and sold lots of photos (and was stunned.. stopped in my tracks by your willingness to BUY my photos)
  • Made things in the shop that were NOT bikes (Pill flasks come to mind)
  • Invented the umami bomb (and cooked some pretty memorable sunday night dinners in the backyard)
  • Broke my arm and assumed that was the end of my bike riding career
  • Played lots of pool
  • Made several trips up to Vermont to spend time with my brothers and other Vermont pals
  • Got over the broken arm and rode bikes some more!
  • Showed bikes and photos at the first annual Bike Cult show in BKLYN at which I auctioned off the UTA and the Assless to raise a combined $15K for the home hospice program of the visiting nurse service of New York.
  • Cooked thanksgiving dinner
  • Crawled to the presumed finish line : My birthday! only to keep right on stumbling along..






70 Replies to “From 309 to 4 and “oh!”.. Out of the frying pan and into the fire!”

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope you enjoy it as much as you’ve been enjoying this past year, it makes me really happy to see you hanging on and making each day worth, you are definetely getting to your next horizon, i really hope you do. Lots of love and hugs to the birthday boy!!! Have fun Ez.

  2. Happy Birthday 🙂

    Glad that you’re not feeling dead. and that you’re not dead dead. or even mostly dead. from these posts, and that long list of adventures, it seems like you’re very much alive!

    and I would love one of those prints for my wife!

  3. Ezra!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! What a gift to receive your post on this anniversary of your birth. I love all of the beautiful B&W photos, Hil & Put, the lonely of course, but the monkey business ones are pretty special too–lovely in fact. Along with everyone else, I am so glad that you are here and that life is good. Stay out of the shadows and keep looking for the “white on white!” Let joy surround you along with the love of those close to you, and of course, those of us in the peanut gallery. With gratitude for your post, big love, snow tracks and tail wags, XOXOXO.

  4. Doctor prognostic is not always right. I have seen and heard people who walked out of the hospital and read what about the disease that afflicted then and change their lifestyle and diet, live many more birthdays than the doctor predicted. Many Happy Return of this day.

  5. Happiest of birthdays to you Ezra!!! Wishing you an amazing 40th year ahead. You are much loved around the world:). Hugs

  6. I am a rather new reader to your blog, and I am ecstatic that you are enjoying this day. Happy birthday, indeed. You, and your wisdom, are very much alive.

  7. Happiest of days, Ezra. We had a gorgeous day here yesterday (76 degrees, partly cloudy, mild winds) so I went with a friend on what I imagine will be my last warm ride of the season. It ended up almost being my last ride ever as I nearly got run over. Not the drivers fault. Not exactly mine either, but sort of as I wandered a bit too far to the right while putting my water bottle back in the cage and my front tire dropped into a crack between the asphalt and the cement gutter that was about an inch wide and 666 miles deep … By the time I got it free (unrutted?) I was at least still on the bike, but I was also leaning so far to the left that the bike shot off in that direction right into traffic with me still clipped in. Scary stuff – the kind of thing that makes people who say “All’s well that ends well,” sound rather ill-informed.

    This fabric we weave from all these threads and turn into our lives are sometimes rather fragile, tenuous, easily broken, … One of the things I’ve enjoyed so much about you is that you continue to weave your life out of all these wonderfully colored projects, and it’s been a pleasure to, in turn, weave reading these blog posts of yours into the fabric of my life these past few months. It’s very good of you to share the things you do …

    As for your “white-on-white” photo, it immediately reminded me of this one:

  8. I’ve followed you for years now. I found out about you from a piano tuner! Odd huh? You had built him a bike. He uses it to get to his jobs. I’m a Broadway stagehand and he was tuning a piano for Memphis the Musical at the Shubert Theater on 44th Street. It was at least three years ago, maybe four. He had the coolest bike I’d ever seen. I really wanted one. He told me about you and that I’d probably never get a bike because you were sick. He told me to Google “fastboy”

    I’ve ridden for years in NYC. Primarily, just because it’s the best mode of transport in Manhattan. I also find it keeps me physically and mentally alive – stay fit, stay alert, or get flattened. (I’m 65 so I need to work on staying fit) And finally, I ride for pleasure, although rude drivers or pedestrians challenge that.

    Following your “progress” has been a huge source of inspiration and a huge source of sadness. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please contact me and I’ll give it a shot. My girlfriend Carolyn ( firmly believes that vitamin C IV’s would help you feel a bit better. She’s probably right because she’s rarely wrong – especially about food and medicine. She’s emailed you about it in the past.

    Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. It has been a wonderful window into how special a human being can be. While I’m not wildly religious, I do attend church. Please know that you’ll always be in my thoughts and prayers. A wise friend of mine used to say “we are all headed to the same place, some of us are just on a shorter road”. Sadly your road is one of the sort ones. All I have left to say is what I say to fellow bikers: “ride safe”. And Ezra, I hope I see you on the other side.


    p.s. I’ve never bought anything from you because I’m just not facile enough with my computer. I’m sure some of those folks are using computer driven stock trading apps 🙂 I’ll try again for this latest photo – it’s great. I wish I had been able to meet you at the bike show but I was in San Fran working on a new show.

  9. Ever since I started reading your blog I got back on my bike (after public transport seemed so comfortable for a number of years), quit smoking and started to eat decent food (cause cooking seemed like actual fun), so, thanks to you, my life has improved considerably. Thank you for writing this blog and I wish you the most Happiest Birthday in the world and lots of love.

  10. Happy Birthday Ezra! Wishing you the 6 more months you want and deserve with tons of happiness and never ending big love!

  11. Happy Birthday, Ezra!!!
    I think about you all the time! Sending you my good vibes*~*~
    Sounds like you are alive to me, :)) VERY much so..
    ENJOY your party as well : )

    And, looking through your photos today, I always love the ones of Hill and Put BUT that particular image did strike me as something speciial. The harshness of winter, yes, but also the white on white. The clean, pure snow only this time of the year can produce before it inevitably gets dirty from plows. I’ve thought about that a lot lately– ways to appreciate winter. This image just LOOKS like winter to me. Beautiful. Lonely. But Beautiful.

    Keep shooting with your camera, I am a big fan:)

  12. Happy birthday wishes from DC, Ezra! Peter and I will be up your way in mid-January. Would love to pop in for a quick hello. Big love to you and Hill from both of us!

  13. I am so happy that you have successfully lived these past twelve months the way you wanted, Fast Boy style. What a great decision you made — and I’m happy that it worked, for the most part, in the way you wanted. Today is definitely a day to celebrate and I hope you had a great party, Ezra. Sending you very best wishes for more love and laughter in the weeks ago.
    P.S. The Hasselblad shots are great. I love the rooftop ones with heads popping up through the skylights. White, white everywhere — Putney is a beauty!

  14. Oh, that’s pretty much for one year, and so productive, it would have taken five years for me at least.

    From the Hasselblad shots I like the one of the wood most. I can smell it, wonderful!.

    Happy Birthday!

  15. Happy birthday sweet brother. I do agree with you
    About the white on white shot- the angles, contrast,
    And composition are really intriguing. I keep starring at the branches perfectly situated in the center of the frame. Wish we were there in the white of NYC.

  16. Happy Birthday, Ezra. You’ve accomplished so many things this past year. You’re a rock star!!! Still sending much love from the Colorado mountains. <3

  17. All my best for you. You were in my mind this, and every, day.
    Nadie se merece más que tú tener un cumpleaños feliz!
    Si vienes a Europa de nuevo tienes un hogar en casa para disfrutar con quien desees.

    Big hugs!

  18. Happy birthday Ezra!

    Welcome to the club of 40 year old geezers.
    Thank you for your post and keep doing what you’re do it well.

  19. Happy Birthday – your writing, your outlook and work have been felt by MANY – Thank You! Tomorrow – start working on your 41st.

    Merry Christmas
    Peace and warm wishes!

  20. Happy birthday, Ez! I’m still learning quite a bit about life from you. You continue to live well in the face of it all. You’re amazing and I thank you for sharing yourself.

  21. No doubt, your incredible zeal for life is in great part what keeps you going.

    Enjoy your day, Ezra! congratulations on entering into the 4th digit.

    I love the photo!


    I understood everything you were saying in your last post but I was mostly like, “Okay… but have you looked at you?! ‘Cause you look GOOD, yo!”
    Let’s talk about THAT. he hee:)
    The photo of you sprawled on the roof is ace.

  23. A little late, but, Happy Happy Birthday!!!! I hope that it was an excellent day.
    I eagerly await the photos from Nova Scotia in May, your previous images from there have made it a place that I must check out some time soon. You continue to be an amazing inspiration.
    Enjoy the holidays.

  24. Hi Ezra, I love your recent b&w photos–awesome as always! The quiet pictures, family pictures and the fun of monkey business!! Please keep ’em coming. Sent a happy b-day to this post via FB on your day.. today I am reading again with fresh eyes. Happy you are finding peace and joy in all you do. I’m sure your “list of things” will keep growing. So much goodness.
    Happy happy birthday and more…
    xoxo Robin

  25. Happy Birthday, Ezra!

    You are the first person I’ve met who feels the same way about the Holiday Season. Starting with October (in anticipation of the cooler weather in Florida, falling leaves -we do have hardwoods that know the seasons somehow even though it’s in the 80’s most days, less daylight) heading to Halloween, then Thanksgiving and Christmas. I always get a little less festive on New Year’s as the wonderful time of different colors, smells, special treats, music, Holiday days off, some vacation maybe, come to an end on Jan 1st and I have to wait 9 months for my favorite time of year to come around again! And having grown up in the DC area, reminders of grey, cloudy, freezing, icy roads come to mind in January, February, teasing spring in March when it’s not quite warm enough and you just can’t wait for that, but then seeing crocus tips coming out of the ground in still hard earth, daffodils around the corner, sunnier days than not, thoughts of gardening, etc.gave me renewed energy and spirit! As if to say, “it’s almost shorts and flip flop time”!

    I love your posts, your story, your inventiveness, your outlook and honesty. I wasn’t able to purchase any of your wonderful photos or the pill canister as others beat me to it (and I actually tried one morning to get online by 7 but missed it by 5 minutes – too late!) but that’s okay – I can see them anytime in your blogs and website!

    I was wondering if you made Thanksgiving Dinner! So glad you did and I bet it was great. Thank you for the recipes, too!

    I could kick myself- I was in Philly in October (our youngest son, Matt, past the 5-year mark in remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which he was diagnosed with at the fresh age of 22 right out of college, lives in Philly and ran an ultra 100 mile race in NH at which his parents were his “crew” (LOL!), and forgot about the bike shop. He’s into running as you are into biking! I’ll tell Matt and see if he can go by and check it out.

    Wow, your list of accomplishments this past year are inspiring! Congratulations! I think your work is priceless.

    I also think I can speak for all of your many fans that you make us happy; you make us smile. Yeah, we are concerned and hurt when we read you are in pain as if we want to share it with you so it’s less on you. But we want to know how you are doing – the good, the lousy. And a lot of us want to do something for you. Anything.

    A New Year is beginning to have a new meaning for me now thanks to your post on the subject – winding down to the New Year means starting to wind up for the next one. I need to remember that going forward.

    Well, never met ya but love ya! What are you making for New Year’s Eve dinner, btw? 🙂


  26. Happy birthday Ezra! Love the snow photo and look forward to seeing some more NYC winter photos. You have definitely packed a lot into the last year.

  27. Ezra, Happy birthday. I’ve had the pleasure of reading your riding, looking at your photos and admiring your handiwork for a while now. Nothing thrills me more than to continue to be able to do so. Thank you.

  28. Please let me know when you are going to be in Nova Scotia, Ezra. I live in New Brunswick, and I would love to drive down to meet you! You’ll more than likely drive through NB, because that’s what most people do, they don’t call it The Drive Through Province for nothing.
    I hope you had a great Birthday party!

  29. Happy belated birthday, that you happen to share with my lovely bride! I promise that the two of you are great company.

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