Earthquake Puppy (Part 2)


Kingston, Ontario, Canada 2000

Chapter Thirteen

Twins Reunited


Time passed quickly after the motorcycle trip and the earthquake. The newspapers said that over 3500 people died in the quake, making it one of the worst ever earthquakes to strike Taiwan. And they calculated there were over 1500 aftershocks that hit during our four-day trip. But classes for Doppel resumed and we visited for the rest of the week before I flew back to my life in Canada. Doppel spent his time reading and taking care of Howie, seldom picking up the phone to call.

That following summer in August we were both invited to an old friend’s wedding. I had decided not to go to the wedding but since Doppel was going to be there I decided to attend. I had called Doppel before to tell him to bring gear to take a mountain-biking trip. I told him I would bring two mountain bikes to Kingston so we could take a ride together. I told him to bring his ‘kit,’ which I knew he would like because it was definitely a Doppel word. I packed accordingly. The wedding was fine and the party was festive. At the reception party afterwards, Doppel was his old self, gregarious and loud, but he didn’t look well. He was pale, which made me subdued so I suggested that we take a trip to see our father in Montreal the following day.

“It’s better to cycle to Montreal than drive because of the weather and because we have time,” I said. The weather was perfect, with no rain forecasted. “A bike ride would do me good.”

“Nice one man. Mountain bikes this time rather than motorcycles.”

“You look pale. Are you okay?” I had to bring it up.

“I’m tired that’s all. My hands are a bit stiff from all the motorcycling I do in Taiwan but I can cycle.” I saw it in his eyes. He could never lie to me because we are twins but it was plain that he wasn’t up to par.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was an undergraduate here.” We were both graduates from Queen’s University and had both majored in philosophy.

“Me too, remember? We used to talk about biking to Montreal?”

“I do remember that. We were sitting at the fort. So it’s something I want to do before I die, and this seems like the right time. And with you it would be very cool man. We can ride along the St. Lawrence River all the way there.”

“We’re here aren’t we? I thought you might suggest an overnighter somewhere, but to Montreal? That’s 300 kilometers I bet. One way.”

“That’s about right. No rush. We go at our own pace. And we can revisit your philosophy because I found it damn crisp bro. Damn fine.” Something in me thirsted for our childhood together and the thought of riding our bikes together along Canada’s Mississippi River to see our Dad was something I had to suggest we do. The wedding was like the 9/21 earthquake: it was the excuse – or sign from God – that opened this opportunity for us both to have an exploit and come together because time was passing and it scared the hell out of me that we would continue to live apart for years to come.

Identical twins should be together, not apart. But we had both chosen different paths in life so we both had to seize the opportunities when they arose.

“There are some things I want to add to the Handbook and you’re the only one who knows it well enough to understand,” he said.

“Should I be flattered?”

“No, not really.” That glint of mischief in Doppel’s eye brought with it a flood of warm memories that extended into the deepest times of my past. But there was something new in his eyes that made my recollection of these fond memories muted. It was something akin to sadness.

“I’m not really in to more socializing after tonight,” I said, “so I was thinking we could leave tomorrow morning. We can follow the old Heritage Highway along the St. Lawrence River and see those old forts the British built last century.” Since I hadn’t seen him since Taipei I thought it was a good opportunity to talk to him about our amazing trip through Toroko Gorge. But most of all I was comforted by the fact that Doppel was back in Canada. Everywhere I turned in my mind I saw more happy memories of our childhood together.

I retired early to my Bed & Breakfast and met Doppel the next morning as planned at Fort Henry in the exact spot we had spoken about taking this bike trip 25 years ago. I was sitting on the rocks on the shore of the St. Lawrence River where the mouth of the St. Lawrence opened up to the open space of blue-green water and blue sky of Lake Ontario. Sparrows darted in and out of fluttering branches, poised for prey above the water periodically diving to the water’s surface and swooping their way back into the air. Pelicans tried to blend in with the seagulls but were too conspicuous. Doppel arrived a bit late but that was expected. He was, after all, a master of his time. I had both bikes with me and had asked a friend from the wedding to drive my car back to his house where I could leave my car.

“The culmination of events that lead to an opportunity is one of the most inexplicable phenomena that can happen to a man,” he said, “and when it does, one wonders if there is a God.” It appeared as if he had drank his regular pot of tea.

“Like the earthquake?” I said.

Si mi hermano. Perhaps the underlying symptom of fate is the timing of coincidence.” There was more nodding. His hair was shorter and his beard longer. He pulled out a map and pointed out the path along the easterly St. Lawrence flow.

“There should be a number of forts between here and Dad,” he said. “In a way, it’s the epicenter of Canadian culture along the St. Lawrence, is it not?”

“It is actually.”

“And a long ride, no?”

“A beautiful ride, my brother. It’s maybe 280 kilometers east-northeast.” I was sweating already in the August heat.

“Man, that’s a ride.”

“But you have to see Dad. It’s been too long. He’s 77 now.” I know Doppel hadn’t spoken to our father in over ten years.

“So it’s more than another exploit?”

“Well, yes. But he has mellowed out over the years. Trust me.”

“The best exploits are the ones with the most meaning.” He stood up and sat on his mountain bike. “Good you brought the bikes.”

“I’m assuming you brought the required equipment?”

“Yep, you?” I could only nod. I knew I was fully self-contained with my knapsack full with tools, food, clothes, the Handbook, compass and an assortment of miscellaneous items. My tent was on the rack above my back wheel, same as Doppel’s. I purchased a 4-fluid ounce bottle of Phil’s Tenacious Oil for the trip, and had tightened the toe-clips so that the straps gripped my feet snugly.

“I see you have the same rack as me. Smart call,” he said. “Panniers are overrated and cumbersome. And anything on the front wheel drastically alters the performance and coordination of the ride. Putting panniers on your front wheel defeats the purpose of riding a bike at all, in my humble…”

“Yep,” I replied. “The quality of the ride is diminished.”

As we left old Fort Henry and the historic Royal Military College and rode toward Gananoque, we reached the paved shoulder of the Heritage Highway – also called 1000 Islands Parkway – after dealing with traffic. It was not that enjoyable but my heart was full of energy for what was to be. Within the first hour I had settled into a triangular balance between the weight of my back wheel, the weight on my back, and the weight on my front wheel through my arms, but there was something off in the balance.

I stopped to readjust the height of my seat. It was as if my legs had shortened. Doppel did the same. Micro-adjustments.

“Biking posture is crucial over the long run,” said Doppel, keen on explaining the mechanics of his new vehicle. “Finding one’s equilibrium takes time. Seat height should be adjusted to maximize energy output from the rider’s legs. In theory it seems plain but actually finding my geometrical equilibrium in practice will take all afternoon today I reckon.”

“Yes, one’s coordination of hand and toe diminishes when ones seat is out of kilter.” Once riding again with virtually no traffic on the old Heritage Highway beside the water, I took the step and introduced his favorite topic: philosophy and philosophers. “Finding your range of balance is Aristotle’s Golden Mean.” I knew Aristotle way more than Nietzsche, who was his favorite: mine traditional and rational, his polemic and unconventional.

“You mean an optimum balance between too much and too little?”

“Well, yes. To quote Aristotle, ‘Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this – the intermediate in the object but relatively to us.’” Amazing I could still quote the silver-tongued master and student of Plato.

“Some are taller than others.”

“Just as some are more equal than others?” I replied. We both loved George Orwell.

“That’s funny.” It was good to see that ironic laugh again. Doppel was more stoic than before, almost resigned. His speed on the bike was slower than I had expected. He was a man who was not in a rush. He enjoyed riding on the paved shoulder of one of Canada’s oldest roads along the main transportation route of the early settlers. The trees lined the water’s edge and the houses were old, some Victorian and some old-fashioned farms still in operation. The smell of rich, fertile soil filled the air intermixed with the powerful smells of the freshwater that raced by the shores. Bales of hay and old broken-down fences were the norm. The nouveaux riches had not yet taken over these old properties.

We had left at a late hour so the time to find a place for the night was soon upon us. Using his special instinct for finding safe places to sleep, Doppel chose a place on the west side of the river overlooking the northernmost point of Wolfe Island in the east. We cycled to the sandy tip of a small peninsula where we watched the sunset and pitched our tents. It was a place where sailboats anchored for the night that were passing through to the United States.

“That’s the same route I think Robert Pirsig did on his boat,” he said, pointing at the waterway going around Wolfe Island.

“In his second book, yes.” Lila. We found an old campfire by a tree on a flat beachfront where you could walk a hundred meters out and still be standing. The sunset from just beyond the point from where we were camping was immense.

“The orange ball reminds me of a Caribbean cantaloupe,” he said. The constant breeze from the vastness of Lake Ontario kept us both cool in the summer heat.

“So what are these additions to your Handbook?”

“Just a polishing of it, that’s all. You’re scientific approach gave me an idea to round out and balance my thinking. It’s good to see you again my brother.” Removing his sunglasses, the wrinkles around his eyes were quite pronounced. He had done a lot of living in his 47 years.

“I wish we could spend more time together. It’s one thing that has really bothered me. So it’s good we’re having another adventure. It’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

“Something always comes up, you know?”

“Well, we’re here, now.”

“True. Howie’s with my neighbor this week. She’s been great to have in my life. I genuinely love my dog. She’s grown into a fine doggy.”

“My last memory of Howie was watching her sit on your gas tank as people slowed down to stare at the crazy foreigner with long hair and a beard and a little puppy balanced on the gas tank. You had it in top gear the whole way back.”

“That was fun.”

“It was an amazing achievement; that’s what it was.”

“It was a good road trip. I hope you learned something from it.”

“Yes, you could say that. It’s a great memory. As you would say, it was a good exploit.”

“Yes. Exploits purify the will. And philosophy is essentially experience and thought, not passive study lacking in legwork.”

“The biking was a good call.”

“It’s the built-in trusted horse that’s always ready to take you where you want to go. The same Viking-Poet principles apply on a bike as on a motorcycle. In fact the mountain bike may have the upper hand in touring performance, even during long journeys.” It was only a moment later when I fell asleep in my tent with my tent door still open.

Old Fort Henry on the shore of Lake Ontario, in Kingston Canada

Chapter Fourteen

Mountain Bike Maintenance


It was a good first night but when I woke up in the morning I lay motionless, trying to wake my sleepy senses into gear. I was stiff, had difficulty standing up and then heard the sound of shuffling sand. My tent was surrounded by hooves and the sound of snorting. I got up slowly and saw a cow’s nose pressing against my tent. For a moment I tried to recall if I had seen any bulls the night before.

I looked out from my tent and a big cow sniffed at me. I didn’t move. Moments went by until one of them began to chew my tent. I yelled and gingerly ran over to the other side of my tent to startle it. The sound of hooves woke up Doppel, who opened his tent. He glared at a big bull in front of him standing in shallow water near the tents. The cows were looking at both of us with their ears alert staring wide-eyed. I thought we might have a skirmish, but the cows soon moved away except Doppel, who kept staring at the bull. It wasn’t until I approached the bull that most of the other cows left. That’s when we both darted to the fence where we hopped over and started to laugh.

Behind the cedar fence we were safe.

We watched the cows stare at us, puzzled. Then I had the sudden realization that all the cows were the same.

“Look, all the cows have equidistant spaces between their eyes. Just a little too wide. And all the eyes are exactly the same,” I said, looking closely at the herd.

“Oh, that is weird. See, the grain on their cowlicks on their forehead is also the same. Same ear size.”

“Same fur quality.”

“All the same.”

Genetically-engineered cows,” we both said at the same time. They all stared at us – all of them.

“I wonder if they’re all thinking the same thing?” Doppel asked.

“Telling from their expressions, they are.” The same guttural laugh came from Doppel.

Then it was Doppel and I who realized at the same time that we were thinking the same thing: the cows were all identical twins like us.

But neither of us mentioned it.

We simply outlasted the cows until they buggered off. We returned to our tents, packed and then cycled off.

We cycled all morning and soon I reached a buoyant balance of equilibrium. As we rode we came upon a plaque on the side of the road. We stopped and read it:

As you travel along the Thousand Islands

Parkway, you will pass through an ancient

mountain range worn down & scarred by time.

The Thousand Islands were created when the

roots of an ancient mountain range were

flooded after the retreat of the last ice

age, 10,000 years ago.

“Ten thousand years is but a moment in the history of our planet, but many hundreds of lifetimes to a Homo Sapien Sapien,” he said. “That’s why for this exploit, which may be our last for some time to come, I want to add to the Viking-Poet Handbook – to enhance it.”


“If we have the moral code of this philosophy, then we need to come up with the logical structure of the philosophy – a logical underpinning as it were. I want to give you something back for sharing with me your thoughts on this work.”

“And I’m guessing you have some ideas about this, do you?”

Bug doctors love swamps. So yes, I do happen to have a few ideas.”

“Wasn’t there something in the Handbook about choosing an exploit with oxygen?”

“Yes. The best strategy for the Viking-Poet to use in choosing an exploit is that it has plenty of oxygen for him the breath. Oxygen is that which feeds the Viking-Poet’s anima. That is, his source of animation. His energy. That vital force within. As you can see, motorcycling and mountain biking are the best forms of no-walled transportation for a maximum oxygen quotient. But one must have a good machine. Yours looks okay.”

“It has served me well over the years.”

“Next stop I’m going to do some maintenance on this one I’m on.”

As I rode along enjoying the scenery, I could hear the well-oiled hum of the chain on my bike – that soft, happy hum of an efficiently run derailleur and back sprocket. It sounded to me like it was a similar hum of a Zen Buddhist working in the fields.

One of the things I discovered quickly about Doppel on a mountain bike was that he stopped at every church he saw. There was a 19th-century Presbyterian Church beyond a dock on top of a hill. It was made of wood painted white, in the style of the colonists settling Upper Canada only 150 years ago.

It was empty.

“I believe there is but one witness who sees all these extraordinary lives of adventure and poetry, and that’s God. Odin. It is the omnipresent overseer with the long white beard who is witness to this ancient club of men who have created masterpieces in how they have used their brief time on earth. It is Him who kept the catalog of paintings in His library in Great Mead Hall in the Sky for all eternity. It is in the eyes of both me and God that I paint my brushstrokes just as it is us who judge how well we have lived while lying on our deathbeds. We are the judge. And God.”

“Why are you talking about death in a church?”

“Where else would you speak of death?”

“Why are you speaking about death?”

“I’m not really. But the deathbed scenario is important. We all have that moment to live.” The way he looked at me so closely in the eye arrested me somehow, as if he had been thinking about this earnestly for some time.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”

Outside Doppel put his bike upside down on its seat and handlebars, and began working on it.

“Here, use some of this,” I said, offering my Phil’s Tenacious Oil. Doppel loved an attentive audience so I watched. And he spoke thus:

“Each part has a functional part of the whole.”

“A unity of parts.”

“Indeed. There would be two poles of thought approaching maintenance of a mountain bike. One way would be to give yourself, say, one hour to work on oiling and cleaning the chain, derailleur and crank. You would only have one hour to clean. The other way would be to clean and oil the bike as you continually evaluate the performance of the bike, ensuring the brakes and gears are tightened, brake pads in line with the rims of the wheels, tightening the chain if it needs it, and any other adjustments that are required, regardless of time.”

“Roger that.” I too put my bike upside down with the seat and handlebars on the ground and began inspecting.

“Seldom is high performance attained when maintenance is not maintained throughout use.”

Doppel first loosened the dirt on the chain and crank with Phil’s Tenacious Oil, working the gears as his bike lay upside down. He discovered his back brake pad was worn to about 1mm from the base on one side, so he took it off and repositioned it so the unworn side was now closest to the rim, competent enough to last the 300km trip to Montreal. He ended up cleaning all the dirt off the chain so that even the dirt existing between the links was scraped off. He used an old defunct pen. When he was done I did the same with all three sprockets on the crank and the chain.

We were like bike dentists, just like cleaning the plaque off the teeth of the crank and the chain.

After he was done, Doppel held up the small, 4-fluid ounce rubbery turquoise bottle of chain oil.

“Behold Phil’s Tenacious Oil in its purity of quality,” he said.

“Yes, it’s good stuff. They call it ‘slippery spit.’”

“How’s you water supply?” I noticed the red circles under his eyes when he handed me back the bottle.

“Good. The road is flat and smooth. It should be good riding. We can use it to define the apparatus I want to analyze.”

“Shall we?”

Born poets sprout, like water and sun; nurture and warmth and Brussels sprouts,” he said into the wind. Only God and Doppel and I heard it.

Back on our bikes we cruised like Chaucer except not on a horses. I began to see more easily what Doppel meant by the importance of one’s perspective of time. If one’s conception of time varies from individual to individual, it is likely the root cause of the difference between people’s own personal philosophies, illustrated by the way Doppel rode his bike, as if he were spending his whole time viewing the mighty waters of the St. Lawrence River or looking for a break in the field where he would pull over and smell the grass. I was riding slowly anyway but he was maximizing and savoring – an activity beyond the mechanics of riding.

When we approached the town of Gananoque, it was me who spotted a corner pocket on a farmer’s field with a great view of the setting sun. I hung a right and we cycled incognito to behind some shrubberies and small bushes. The grass had been freshly cut and the land looked accommodating. We dismounted and began pitching our tents.

“Behold, qualia is the coldness of water refreshing my parched throat,” he said as I finished putting up my tent. The sun had fallen behind the horizon swiftly. My muscles ached already.

Qualia. I have heard you use that word in Taiwan. I don’t think I know what it means.”

“It’s a primary part of the piece,” he said. “Qualia is the key to the experience: the chocolateness of chocolate; the redness of red; qualia is the hue of sweat under the hairline.”

“The chocolateness of chocolate,” I replied. “And the redness of red. Hmmm…” I lay on my spongy mat beside the candlelight looking up at the stars savoring this moment with my twin brother.

“A Viking-Poet needs his open spaces, his sounds of nature and his visual textures to feel a sense of belonging.”

“Yes. Nature’s bosom.”

“He continually feels the urge to ride, to sail, to go on an exploit, to make the most out of his short time on earth. This is what makes him restless: the diminishing availability of his remaining elixir of life: time.”


Lost time is the crime.” He laid down on his sleeping mat and groaned from pain.

“Lost time is the crime indeed,” I said, mulling.

I blew out the candle and lied back under the stars, glaring at the dancing sparkles glittering in the blackness while Doppel kept his light on in his tent. The array of sounds from crickets and cicadas produced a symphony bringing me to sleep and drowning me in a dream.

Map of the St. Lawrence River east of Kingston

Chapter Fifteen



I woke up late in the warm sun on the farmer’s field with my arms stiff and unbendable. Outside my tent I see Doppel stretching his arms and legs after yesterday’s ride, trying to limber up for the day but the way he moves suggests he is in more pain than me. His gait is stiff, his face is flushed and his hands look like claws. He looks to me – at first glance – like an old man, aged twice as fast as normal.

“Not used to the biking I see,” I say to him, addressing his physical pains, but he shrugs.

“Not getting any younger.” Flippant and laidback but perhaps concealing an old back injury or something. “Let’s just move at a casual pace today, shall we?” He quickly puts on his cycling gloves and packs his gear wearing them, but I see his fingers are still curled under the gloves.

“My hands are stiff as hell today.”

“Mine too bro.” It looks as if the very core of his limbs ache as if he has acid in his bone marrow.

Gently hopping on our bikes after a breakfast of bread, cheese and water, we pedaled along Highway 2 just off the gravel shoulder on the pavement. It wasn’t nearly as busy as the main highway going to Montreal so the cycling was good and relaxing. There were no trucks.

As we passed Gray’s Bay we heard honks from a muffled horn of a distant train. Its faint sound was all Canadiana. After a couple hours of riding, Doppel saw a trail so he took it. I had no idea where it led other than it pointed north so I followed. Through flowers our wheels rolled and through vegetation chest high and white, all was momentarily frozen in a shimmer. For a long moment time had become beautiful.

We whipped down the trail through the grass down the green and gray corridor at a comfortable speed going east with a northerly flow. There was so much color that the bumps and sweat didn’t disturb me. We pedaled until we reached the road again. There were no cars around.

“I think the town of Ivy Lea is just around the corner,” he said.

“Good off-road hit.”

“Yes. Did you know that in the theory of relativity there is no unique absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving?”

“But you see, there’s a subjective view of time.”

“Tell me riding off-road like that didn’t change time?”

“It became more intense. More beautiful.”

“More qualia, more color, more butterflies, more bumps, more smells, more memories than the same kilometer we did before it. Just like time within the workplace is different from time you spend on your bike. It’s quantifiably the same – one minute is one minute – but the experience of time is different. They’re qualitatively different.” He put down his bike and walked in the waist-high grass feeling the tops with the palms of his hands.

“Are you having a moment?”

“Well, I’ve come up with a word: zeitqualia. It’s what we just did: experiencing the flow of time in all its color and texture. That’s what we were doing on our motorcycles in Taiwan. The serious green of the mountains and the cool breeze of the wind and the rocks on the road; they were all part of the qualia of the ride. It is the kaleidoscope of tactile images that penetrate the veil of our senses when we are executing an exploit.”

Zeitqualia. Right on. How’d you get that?”

“’Zeit’ is German for ‘time,’ and you know qualia: the Latin root of the word ‘quality’ meaning the qualitative, experiential ‘feel’ of a mental state or process. For instance, the redness of a visual experience, the hurt of pain, or the chocolateness of a taste. To maximize the zeitqualia of an exploit is the task for our Viking-Poets.”

“I see you’re getting your words in order. Pretty soon you’ll have a complete and comprehensive philosophy you can call your own.”

“Sure, after I’m dead I guess.” The mention of death on such a beautiful day and in such a glorious place didn’t fit with the vibe. Everything around us was teeming with life. I began to wonder if he was giving me hints that he was ill. I would keep my eyes open henceforth.

The sun was hanging over my right a bit, just shy of midday. Very few cars passed us as we rode by a series of 19th-century country estates every few moments with the majority enclosed by greenery. The windy air smelled of freshly produced oxygen, from the never-ending trees and bushes bringing with it the farm-like aroma of soil and harvest. The wind picked up and was coming in gusts southeast from the United States. My steady flow of motion was now periodically slowed by intermittent gusts.

Cycling hour after hour and pondering Doppel’s notion of zeitqualia, I could see the logic in what Doppel is saying though it must be a skill to master it.

A highway sign near Brockville signaling an historic site appeared. A quick calculation produced the answer “yes” in response to whether we’d pull over to read it. We turned at the next sign not knowing what the historical site was. Doppel spotted the arrow pointing to beside the water where there was an historical plaque. We cycled over and read it:



In November, 1813, an American army of some 8,000 men, commanded by Major James Wilkinson, moved down the St. Lawrence en route to Montreal. Wilkinson was followed and harassed by a British “corps of observation” consisting of about 800 regulars, militia and Indians commanded by Lieut.-Col. Joseph Morrison. On November 11, Morrison’s force established in a defensive position on John Chrysler’s Farm, and was attacked by a contingent of the American army numbering about 4000 men commanded by Brigadier-General J.P. Boyd. The hard fought engagement ended with the American’s withdrawal from the battlefield. This reverse, combined with the defeat of another invading army at Chateauguay on October 26, saved Canada from conquest in 1813.

The wind seemed to pick up the restless spirits on the battlefield. I felt the presence of death, not knowing if they were spirits in the ethers or the stench of death coming from one of us. A feeling of history here, as if the blood that was spilled was still fresh and the wounds were still healing in the nourishing breeze. The 30-foot monument stood at the top of a small hill by the water and beside the old farm of John Chrysler. There were now government employees serving as early 19th-century farmhands to try to re-enact this historical event.

I stood in the wind by the monument and read another plaque that was below it.


Here on the farm of John Chrysler, was fought one of the decisive battles of the War of 1812. On 11 November 1813 Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, with 800 British and Canadian regulars, militia and Indians engaged an American force of 4,000 under Brigadier-General John Boyd. The open terrain was suited to the training of the well-drilled British regulars who after two hours of heavy fighting, routed the enemy. This victory ended a major American thrust to Montreal.

Many units composed largely of persons residing in the American provinces at the time of the Revolution fought valiantly in support of the Crown, forfeiting their property and suffering great privation. They and their descendants played a leading role in the rapid development of the province. For this cause are known as United Empire Loyalists.



I could feel it all in my heart as I stood there straddling by bike beside Doppel with my head heavy with battle imagery from the War of 1812.

“The lay of the land here is perfect for a pitched battle,” said Doppel, looking across to the field where it met the trees and the water.

“So much was decided right here.”

“And to think so many go by and never know it’s here. Thank God for the Loyalists.”

“There must have been cannonballs splashing at will. The imagery of a lead bullet in the thigh is heavier than a bullet in the head for some reason,” I said. “All wounded know why.”

“Are you wounded?”

“Once wounded always wounded. A pain in the soul for the lost time between you and me. Our separation. Too much time has passed. I always thought we’d have more time to hang out.” Looking at his flushed face, for the first time I could see plainly in the midday light that he was sick – and it made my heart break.

“We do. We have our road trip.” Could not hide the sadness in my eyes.

“I wish we had had more.” I looked at him in his khaki shorts and beard.

“But we are on one here right now. There is no other place I want to be right now than here with you at this battle site beside the river. This is the final chapter in the Handbook. This is the culmination of years of study and action for one to distill what it is to be alive.” For a moment it occurred to me that his Handbook was his way of recording his life to hand down to others for generations to inspire them in their lives – as a guide and roadmap – the fruits of his own toils and travels. Selfless and tragic.

For a moment I couldn’t breathe. I was overwhelmed. He could see it.

“A tree withers that on a hill-top stands; protects it neither bark nor leaves: such is the man whom no one favors: why should he live long?” I was too winded to ask for the footnote.

“Are you not well?”

“I am as well as I need to be for this tour along the major artery of Canada, and the early highway of exploration to the New World. There are no philosophers here. See I am a descendent of David Hume. ” His laughter was taken by the wind and flung to the towns downwind.

“How’s that?”

“Because I believe the Scotsman’s words to be true when he said: ‘It is confessed, that the utmost of human reason is, to reduce the principles, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasoning from analogy, experience, and observation.’ That is my work. That is how I see the world. And to do this work one must live in the now. Human lives come and go but the first principles of life’s conundrums remain.’” Doppel took off in an instant, like the blades of cut grass on the field.

Back on the road dragonflies buzzed in front of me flying the same speed as me. We cruised momentarily together, me and the dragonflies, passing inconspicuously along the hot August pavement. One dragonfly faded to the left and then darted past me just missing my eye. I was thankful I was wearing my eye tackle to protect from bugs and debris and UV rays.

At one point I approached a guy walking his dog who was using the entire length of the leash. It all happened in an instant. I passed him crossing the railway tracks where the edges in the road were chipped and deep along the iron rails. As soon as I rode around the guy and his dog, a black Porsche came screaming by just missing me by a hair, all in a moment. The fumes of the squeeze still hung in the thick air as I coasted on one pedal. I let my head fall forward and relax my neck muscles and back. A surge of soothing blood rushed to my shoulders quenching a prolonged pinch.

Site of the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm on the St. Lawrence River

Chapter Sixteen

Mountain Bike Logic


 We continued to tour in 17th gear, passing rolling green hills with wooden fences, cattle grazing and some corn yet to be harvested. My mind was racing with thoughts – new thoughts of a life without my twin brother – but I kept pushing them out in an effort to try to harvest the beauty that surrounded me. I was trying to apply Doppel’s philosophy of zeitqualia. I wanted something permanent from him I could keep always.

The road veered to the riverside again when we saw another plaque near Prescot. We were in an area that had been flooded when the locks and canals of the St. Lawrence River had been built so there were old 19th-century towns hidden underwater.

Just as we were getting into a flow, we came upon a historical plaque.


Construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway required the flooding of 20,000 acres along the Canadian shoreline between Iroquois and Cornwall. Some of these lands had been settled by the Loyalists in the 1780s. Between 1955 and 1957, 6,500 residents were relocated, many of them to the new communities of Ingleside and Long Sault. Work crews moved buildings to new sites and re-routed highways and railway tracks. Iroquois and part of Morrisburg were rebuilt on higher ground. On “Inundation Day,” July 1, 1958, the rising waters of Lake St. Lawrence slowly submerged the villages of Aultsville, Farran’s Point, Woodlands, Dickinson’s Landing, Wales, Moulinette, Milles Roches and a farming community on Sheek’s Island.


“Well, eerie isn’t it? The government decides on the seaway and whole towns are evacuated and then submerged.”

“Still there now,” I said, thinking of the afterlife. A smile.

“Untouched except by protective womb of water.”

“Interesting. A womb of something protective.”

There were many plaques in the area identifying hidden towns underwater all along this shoreline, but this plaque was different. We stopped to read it.



The first Lutheran minister to settle in this province, Schwerdtfeger was born in Burgbernheim, Bavaria, and studied theology at the University of Erlangen. Emigrating to America in 1753, he served as pastor of congregations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Much persecuted for his allegiance to the crown during the American Revolution, Schwerdtfeger moved to Canada in 1791. He settled here in Williamsburg Township and became pastor of a congregation of German Loyalists, which had been established in 1784, and by 1790 had constructed the first Lutheran church in what is now Ontario. In this site now lies beneath Lake St. Lawrence. Within a few years he had organized Lutheran congregations in neighbouring townships. He died in 1803 and was buried in the old church cemetery.

“He died one year before Kant died,” said Doppel.

“Kant.” That was a philosopher I hadn’t thought about in 25 years.

“Sure. It goes Hume and then Kant.”

“That’s right, because it was Hume who woke Kant up from his ‘dogmatic slumber.’” This seemed to trigger something in my brother. And I was all for him talking about his passion rather than discussing his health.

“1803. If Kant’s academic vernacular is any indication of his zeitgeist, then the wind of logical formulation was in the air.” He stood there straddling his mountain bike and raised his crooked finger in the air as if he were a professor. “Manifest in the grammar of the philosopher’s language back then was the objective of clarity, manifest in the writings of Kant and Hegel. Hegel even went so far to bend the grammar to fit his idea of the world and to make language conform to his worldview.” He smiled at me. “Their thirst was for a crisp logical knife.

“They were also religious men like us.”

“Well, yes. So their language may have reflected that too. Perhaps Hegel’s metaphysical religion was manifest in his use and abuse of the prevailing linguistic norms.” He reached into his pocket and handed me his journal. A page was book marked.

“What’s this?”

“I wrote it the other night. It sort of illustrates this language thing we’re discussing.”

I opened it to the page where there was strange-looking poem written in pencil:


Abstract Architecture Arranged As Anthropological Arithmetic

The Philosopher

Aristocratic Animals Attaining Art

And Achieving Accelerated Aesthetics with Accent,

Assuming An Analytical Assessment And Analysis

Of All Action and Axioms.

I started to laugh!

After All the Axes Are Analyzed And Attuned,

Erudite Ants Attain the Always-Ascending Affinity

To Affirm the Affiliation of Ancestry And Affected Anatomy

In our All-encompassing Astuteness to Anchor

Our Already Anarchic And Apocalyptic Apple-pie Answers

Against Appropriate Appraisal And Aphorisms of Adventure.

“This is crazy!” But I read more:

All Apprenticeships Are Amphibious Amoebas

In An Aquarium of Aerodynamics,

Apprehending And Attaching Apperceptional Amendments

And Amassing Atoms of Action’s Arbitration Around

An All-illusive Apical: the Architecture of the Aphonic Absolute.

“Nice one.”

All Adjectives of the Anatomy of our Ancient

And Active Abstract Agriculture

Apply Anthropological Arithmetic to Accepted Astronomy

And Archaeology, Accumulating Amalgamated Ambition

And Ascension, All Assembling At the Academy of Arts.

“You, my brother, are a weird dude!”

“Indeed I am!” We laughed from the gut there by the river, me amazed at what he had written.

“That’s what it’s supposed to be to be a philosopher?”

“Well, yes as it were. You see, you must allow some room to bend the language, to bend the grammar, to overcome the linear rules of the inherent logic in language. I suggest that the very logical structure of a language is a mirror reflection of man’s innate logical apparatus.”

“That seems pretty heavy man. But you know what, I can see that. But I have to ask: what exactly do you mean?”

“The rules of grammar for example, are lines of logic that show us how we naturally think. The logic in language can be bent, or more importantly, is bendable.”


“Well, so many of our logical systems in math and science that we use for analysis are simple logical systems that are binary in nature. It’s either 0 or 1. That’s it. There’s no bending of the rules. It’s inflexible by nature. Symbolic Logic we were taught in philosophy too. Linear logic is characterized by parallel and perpendicular lines, but the logic we actually use in our daily lives and especially on an exploit like this, has an inherent bending and declension in it. I believe it would be fair to say that we do not ride in perfectly straight lines nor take corners at a geometrically perfect angle. Rather we ride and a kind of flow and continual judgment of the never-ending bumps and imperfections along our path.”

“No, I agree. We don’t ride in a straight line and at a constant speed.”

“As we ride we fill in the gaps and corners where linear logic cannot go. We use our intuition in our logic. So when cycling, one must balance between the geometrically crisp logical model with a wise spatio-temporal inflected logic. Our decision-making process as we ride is not rigid; it takes into consideration the application of a linear system onto a non-linear world.”

“So then you’re saying there are two types of logic?”

“The two central types of logic I see are the traditional linear logic and what we could call mountain bike logic.”

“Yeah, okay. I can see that.”

“For the Viking Mountain-biker, an exploit is a time to savour the mobile equilibrium and milk the art of balanced motion and technique. For the Viking Mathematician, his exploit becomes a matrix of numerology measurable in the language of math. For the Young Viking, it’s an exciting opportunity to learn a new skill and develop the know-how and equipment to undertake subsequent adventures. For this the Viking needs his mountain bike logic because it’s an intuitive rationale that is logically inflected in nature. It enables us to see and read between the lines of what binary logic leaves out.”

For a moment I knew I was witnessing Doppel’s genius – his passion project that had evolved to such a point that he had created an insight hitherto never expressed before. He had studied philosophy not for marks but because he sought the truth and in this seeking he had discovered shortcomings, so he had created a comprehensive philosophy that took into consideration traditional shortfalls in previous theories and had come up with something completely original.

Surely this was his legacy.

I looked out at the water and thought of the forgotten town that lay below the surface of the water that was flooded by the locks in the St. Lawrence, and worried for a moment that all his work might be forgotten and buried too. Pages in the journal in my hand fluttered in the air currents around the top of the hill and I felt the urge to record his thoughts and write them out for others to learn. I was connected to all this, I thought, because I am his twin brother and I, too, studied philosophy but I had chosen a path without intellectual curiosity and earnestness. I had chosen the lazy, easy life whereas Doppel had forged ahead and continued his studies ever since he graduated 25 years ago.

I sighed and went to my bike. I stepped on my pedal and picked up speed riding down the hill. Armed with my newfound mountain bike logic, I suddenly had the appetite for a challenge. I considered Doppel’s idea. And I began to apply it as I rode. Cycling is sculpting a stream with a subtle lean of the shoulder creating a new wave with only a slight of hand. Temporal orientation is fundamental to a coordinated brake and turn, and a lane change, not to mention cracks in the roads from the long winters. Mountain bike logic had to be temporal in nature. Just as I mountain biked in a flow of space and time, the coordination of how we ride our mountain bikes is the way we use our logic. Same with motorcycling. Same with sailing and the other vehicles of exploit known to the Viking-Poet.


We had planned on riding farther for the day, but the sight of rapids in the St. Lawrence drew us to a spot where we crashed for the night. That night I fell asleep after I ate. Doppel must have dragged me to my tent.

The shores of the St. Lawrence River en route to Montreal

Chapter Seventeen

Inspiring the Next Generation


We camped at the site of Iroquois, a town that was buried under the St. Lawrence River, hidden by the water. I tried to spot some evidence of the village but couldn’t see anything. To know there was a town there under the surface fascinated me. We were protected by trees from the road but the morning was chilly in the covered inlet where I sat beside my tent. Doppel was off somewhere on his bike so I walked to the water’s edge and ate some peanuts and drank some water. I sat right beside the roar of the water and stretched out my legs.

It felt damn good to just sit.

I thought hard about how Doppel believed it was just him and God who saw the brushstrokes of his life, and how it was just those two who judged him on his deathbed. It was perhaps the only piece of knowledge that he was certain of when it came to the afterlife and reincarnation. He had always had doubts of an afterlife ever since childhood. It was the undisputed foundation of his entire belief system, and the reason why he was passionate about time utility. It was why he believed in Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence – only the one life that is lived over and over for eternity. Living just the one life had been his awakening. He saw that the size of his canvas was equal to the amount of time he had to live, and that the colours he could paint on his life canvas were left to him to find for himself out in the world. Doppel was sure the heavens were littered with uni-coloured and incomplete canvases with very few that contained any degree of art. Fewer still were fully painted and only a select few were hung at the pinnacle where all in heaven could appreciate the poetically executed exploits of the exclusive Viking-Poet Club.

Doppel still wasn’t back so I left on my bike for a ride. There was little traffic and lots of birds. I bumped into two kids walking along the side of the road. The bigger one said: “Good trip?”

“So far,” I replied. I told them I had started in Kingston. They looked at my bike and packs.

“No way you came from Kingston,” said the younger one.

Doppel appeared with a bag of food coming from a store. He stopped and joined in the conversation. They said they weren’t from Iroquois so they didn’t know the area.

“He wants me to carry the pack with all the books,” the bigger one said to me. Looking at the smaller boy I saw a flicker of fear and fragility. Glancing at Doppel, I could see that he saw it too.

“Ah, it’s good for you. It builds character,” Doppel said back to the bigger kid. “Trust me.” He nodded and winked at the kid. I saw that the kid got his meaning.

We said good-bye and cycled back to the tents. I sat hunched over some bread feeling weak. I noticed his worn shoes, worn from action, and his bushy beard. He was a man who was seldom concerned with cosmetic tweaking for the sake of what others may think or to conform to the latest fashion trends, particularly when dragging a sharp razor blade across his skin only to go through the same thing the following day, and the day after that and so on. HE always referred to the Myth of Sisyphus to justify his beard – about that man who pushes a rock up a mountain everyday only to have it fall down at the end of the day. ‘Same thing’ he always said about his beard. Since becoming a real philosopher, who is more concerned with life’s truths rather than all things trivial, Doppel had let his facial hair grow into its natural state.

“From adventure all wisdom springs,” he said, drinking a Coke. I could see him looking at the circles around my eyes as I was looking closely at the red rash that was still encircling his upper cheeks around his upper nose in the shape of a butterfly.

“Are you up for riding today? We could take a day off you know. Dad has no idea we’re coming to see him.”

“Didn’t sleep well last night, that’s all,” he replied. “Well you certainly slept in.”

“Just a little stiff.” We packed up and sorted ourselves.

“Best way to work out the stiffness in weary limbs is by moving,” he said and was gone. I followed at a leisurely pace into the new town of Iroquois where I bumped into the same two kids. We were accosted by them so we rode to a picnic table. Doppel bought four Cokes and they talked our ear off.

“Are you brothers?” the older one asked.

“Yes, we’re identical twins.”

“You have a beard and you don’t,” he replied.

“That’s because I’m a philosopher,” Doppel replied. “Did you know that once in Greece 2500 years ago there lived a philosopher who was convicted of a crime and was given a choice in his sentence. Since he was a philosopher and beards were part of the pedigree of a philosopher, he had to choose between three years in prison or cutting off his beard. You know what he chose?”

“His beard,” said the boy.

“That’s what I would have thought too but no, he spent three years in jail. He loved his beard that much.” The kids looked to Doppel as if he was a favorite uncle, cool and mysterious, still not understanding the story.

Finally Doppel interjected and asked the younger kid: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a race car driver.” The older boy laughed but Doppel kept his eye on the young boy and said: “Go for it man. I can see you racing cars. I race motorcycles. You can do it.” Just like that his eyes lit up when he smiled. His buddy had stopped laughing. The young boy, eyes now bright, had had the last laugh.

They left and we bought some food and supplies at the local store before moving off towards Cornwall. I feel rejuvenated jumping on my bike, I slipped the balls of my feet into the toe clips. Swinging the toe into the clip comes from rhythm, angling at the bouncing revolution of the crank to catch the entrance side of the pedal. Holding the bottom half of the pedal by the toe, I momentarily caressed the top of the strap before the foot falls into the full pedal space. Even in this there is a time factor at play so the logic must have a temporal structure.

It’s a skill of toe and timing.

I slowed because Doppel was falling behind. My focus on toe clips made me go faster. When I looked back I could see Doppel kept fumbling with his toe clips. It looked like he was beginning to lose control of his feet. For the first time it looked like riding was difficult for him and it scared me to the quick. I rode very slowly until I stopped at the side of the road. He found me waiting for him eating water and peanuts.

We walked our bikes to a small café in the village past Iroquois, leaving our bikes leaning against the patio. When I walked into the café I realized I looked silly. I had my water bottle in my left pocket in my knapsack so I grabbed the empty plastic bottle to fill it up. Sitting, I stretched out my legs and relaxed. The warm, sweet coffee hit the spot.

“Hot today,” he said. I took out a brick of some cheddar cheese that I had bought in Iroquois, broke off a piece and handed it to him.

“It’s the best cheese I had ever tasted,” I said. “The expiry date is something like six months from now.”

“I must say it is very fresh,” I said. “How’s your bike running?”

“Very smoothly thank you. I checked the rack’s stems to see if they need tightening. Tire pressure is near perfect. Both brakes are crisp. The axel has stabilized from flexing due to the weight. When standing up to pedal, it puts a strain on the rear axle.”


“The back rack, the rim and the axel should not be ignored.”

“I’ll make note of that.”

“Irony: the cornerstone of the Viking-Poet humor.”

“That’s not in the Handbook.”

“Many things are not. Like bike maintenance, though it should be. A mountain bike, if you think about it, is really simple. An oiled chain is first on the list. I’m now a fan of Phil’s Tenacious Oil. The chain is silent with that stuff. Secondly, the gears must be tight. One doesn’t want sloppy gear changing with a loose chain that skips off the teeth of the back sprocket. When the gears are loose the derailleur sits in between gears thereby putting strain on the chain. A loose chain breeds skippage.”

 “Yes, it does breed skippage.”

“Thirdly, one needs full confidence in one’s brakes in order to stop at the flex of a finger. The strength of the brakes must be able to handle the mass of the moving entity. Checking the crank to see if it rotates in all three crank gears is also important, as is adjusting the handlebars to suit the posture of how you ride.”

“So this is your mountain bike maintenance?”

“Well, it is. The key concept when dealing in mountain bike maintenance is to keep the back wheel clean and crisp. The art of maintenance lies in the cleanliness of form. Attuning one’s ear to the intuneness of one’s bike is a learned thing; the crisp click of a gear change and the clean braking without rubbing rims are an indication of a good bike.”

“The ear is the voice of mountain bike maintenance.”

“Yes, from experience I believe that to be the case,” he said. “I believe it was Hume who said: ‘causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason, but by experience.’”

“Indeed, it is the case here. As is why we know the sun will come up tomorrow.”

My leg was asleep from sitting so long but it took time for the feeling to come back. There was a moment that I thought it would never return. I felt the urge to ask Doppel about his health directly but I didn’t have it in me. He paid for the coffees and he waited with me, sitting quietly at peace. Eventually I limped to our bikes and we were off.

There were no clouds in the royal blue sky of the late morning. As we journeyed alongside the river, all I saw were islands of rocks, and red and white lighthouses in the middle of the seaway. Small scraggly trees peppered the circumference of the rocky islands as if from a Group of Seven painting. Looking south at the United States across the river, I saw a dark red brick building on the island. There was a plaque where Doppel stood.

“What does it say?”

“It says that building out there on the island was a key safety port for the British during the War of 1812, when they sailed up the St. Lawrence from the ocean with cargo.”

“I love it: Canadian history comes alive.”

We kept moving, the current almost ushering me along through its sheer force or movement. Doppel might see the War of 1812 but I can’t shake the feeling that the Mohicans were the ones who lived amongst this beauty and played hide and seek along the Thousand Islands. For miles we passed exposed Canadian Shield rock and lighthouses at every turn. The landscape had become a Lawren Harris painting. I let the beauty seep into me like a sponge. It was glorious – this moment – cycling with my best friend.

Lawren Harris painting of one of the many islands in the St. Lawrence River

Chapter Eighteen

The Bookstore


The sun was hot and we were both thirsty so we decided to go into the town of Morrisburg. We rolled down the main road past the legion and post office. We could see the water from the top of the hill where tall maple branches ruffled in the brewing gale. Victorian homes sprawled every corner with turrets and bay windows and front porches and big front lawns with mature trees. We picked up speed going down the hill where we could see white caps on the river. Then we saw a sign:


So we stopped.

“I’m a bit tired so let us rest here,” he said. We leaned our bikes against the limestone coach house. When he dismounted his bike and drank some water, it looked like he was going to faint. 

I grabbed his arm.

“Every individual has his own speed and direction,” he said, sounding old and wise like a sage. “A higher speed does not necessarily mean better quality since each rider has their own comfort level. It is at one’s natural speed when one may have synergy of parts, which of course would have the highest quality.” He drank more water and breathed deeply. I thought I heard a rattling in his lungs but he ignored it. “Since each individual is unique, each rider must find their preferred flow.”

I let go of his arm.

“Let’s go in.”

The hardwood floors in the bookstore enhanced the old English motif with the antique desk and ink stills on the windowsill. Old hardcover books covered the walls with unimposing grace. We both gravitated to the philosophy section where I look for a book about Heraclitus.

“I see the staples of the old school here: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and maybe a Descartes or a Hume thrown in there but I’m stunned to see this.” He picked out a small copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. It’s so small it can fit into his breast pocket. “The Kaufman translation,” he said. “Score.”

I realized I’m tired of philosophy so I browsed in the poetry section where I find more than a dozen books on Byron. I looked for a copy of Walt Whitman but instead I spotted an old painting in the corner of the poetry section behind another smaller picture leaning against the wall. When I picked it up I see it’s a painting of a classic photo of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond.

“Thoreau at Walden, that’s also a score. Nice one.”

“Think I can fit it into my knapsack?” I asked.

“If it’s meant to be I’m sure there’s a way.” The words sounded familiar.

“I was wondering if this painting was for sale,” I said to the woman behind the counter.

“Yes, I believe it is.” When I mentioned that we were riding our bikes to Montreal from Kingston, she asked me if I would like her to send it ahead to Montreal.

“That would be easier actually, in case it rains. Minimize wear and tear.” She said she understood so I gave her the address in Montreal.

Outside, Doppel was sitting beside his bike reading through his ‘Portable Nietzsche.’

“You don’t look well,” I said, finally confronting him directly. “You’re pale.”

“Strange, I thought I had a burn.”

“You do but you’re pale too.”

“Is that possible?” He grinned.

“Seriously, what’s wrong?”

“Ah, I just need some more water.” He drank again from his water bottle. 

“Let’s have lunch at that café. My treat.”

“I’m not hungry but I’ll take a Coke.” We sat underneath a Moosehead umbrella and drank Pepsi. The sun shone off the bright white tablecloth that came through in waves surrounded by the splashing aura of water. I ordered some chocolate milk too for both of us.

“Good choice chocolate milk. Taste and nutrition – double hit.” He flipped through his book.

“Not surprised you’re still on Nietzsche,” I said.

“After years of study, I’ve considered how each contributed a chapter to the development of Western thought, how Hume had broken through and plainly said that all knowledge was unsure because it was based on experience, and how Kant contributed one of the most extraordinary sketches of how man thinks that had ever been attempted before. And how Schopenhauer took the apparatus and built on it until Nietzsche arrived on the scene with his hammer and smashed the edifice into pieces with undeniable style. But it was the anti-German German who had a way of speaking to my soul unfettered.”

“I know what you mean when you say unfettered.”

“It’s as if it’s all a flowchart leading up to the best – the rebel who bent the rules and wrote artfully as he put his finger on an endless string of insights that I can see plain as day. When I first started reading him it was non-stop jaw dropping. I saw the Viking and the monk, and how a true philosopher was difficult business but also the only choice for those who loved truth. Nietzsche brought rock’n roll to writing philosophy. In him I found a soul mate that had been dead for a hundred years.”

“Right around the time you went to Taiwan.”

“Yes, about then. It was Nietzsche who made philosophy interesting and almost single-handedly stretched my mind to the point of permanent damage. I spent days, weeks, months, reading night after night. I shut off my television and wanted to read it all. Those were sledgehammer days.”

“Yep, I can see that in you. Serious nihilism piece.”

I studied the same philosophy degree as Doppel at the same university and came across the names he said but most of it had been forgotten, but in Doppel’s life their words were still resounding and echoing in everything he did. It shamed me that I hadn’t retained more from my undergraduate work.

With all this talking, I ordered another coffee and was busy stroking my unshaven chin. I looked out with Doppel at the blue sky against the flowing water. A bright red and white sailboat passed us with the swift surety of purpose. I open my Whitman and read some lines, remembering my own university days as distracted with the voice of poets like Whitman and Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley.

“I never cared for Whitman,” he said. I flipped back two pages and read him a line:

Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light &

of every moment of your life.

I mulled over Whitman’s words for a moment in the breeze. A family sat a few tables away eating cheeseburgers and French fries.

“Sporting some philosophy in there, isn’t he?”

“I believe you could say he is, yes.”

As I was thinking of wiping gum out of my eyes, I saw another forty-foot yacht sail by. I took off my sunglasses and closed my eyes under the magnitude of the sun and heard melodious laughter from somewhere. Doppel smiled. I kept looking for the source of the laughter. Then it disappeared.

I paid for the coffees and we pedaled for Cornwall before the sun became too hot. The road was quiet as we passed more islands. My twin and I biking side-by-side on the quiet road, very slowly. Major zeitqualia. A Cessna flew overhead puttering under the hot Promethean sun. As I changed from low to high gear, I adjusted my sprocket gear by millimeters, enough to rid the chain from rubbing against the sprocket changer. In the back of my mind I thought this was the final time we would ever ride side-by-side like this in such peace. Montreal was not far off.

“You have the older Deor full range adjustment gears that don’t click into place according to a predetermined grid,” he said as we cycled side-by-side. “I can hear it.”

“That’s right. They don’t click. Fully manual. Not like the newer mountain bike styles.”

“The new ones you’re talking about aren’t as good as the old ones like you have. These new clicking gears loosen from hard riding and from the flexing of the cables and of course the bending in the frame. Loosening can be very small, like a few millimetres, so micro-adjustment is crucial to crisp gear changing.”

“You’re right about that.”

“The stretching causes the gears to fall just off kilter so that the gears end up out of line with the teeth of the sprocket. That’s why it makes that noise. It’s God’s reminder that the machine is not in tune.”

“It’s God’s reminder that we all need tweaking to keep up performance.”

The river was out of sight. Only mature maple trees lined the road as we rode down a small hill.

“The new clicking lever-pressing type of gear changer represents the antithesis of artful poetry in motion,” he said, still mulling over the importance of the braking system.

“With my old changer, I can make the micro adjustments,” I said.

“And thus achieve a coordinated flow.”

We spotted another historical plaque so we pulled over.


Last stand of France in Canada. Fort de Levis, on Isle Royale, (Chimney Island), was built by captain Pouchet in the spring and early summer of 1760. Its garrison surrendered after a gallant defence, on 25th August 1760, to the British army commanded by Sir Jeffrey Amhearst. Siege batteries were established on this point and on adjacent islands.

“That’s exactly 240 years’ ago today,” I said, checking the date on my watch.

“What are the chances?” We both savoured the coincidence. “The poor French lost everything, even Pierre Radisson, their shining light,” he said, touching on one of his favourite Canadian explorers.

“That’s right. Pierre Radisson. I remember, when you went tree-planting that summer.” The summer of Doppel’s second year university he went north of Timmins into the bush sleeping in a tent, swatting mosquitoes and planting thousands of trees. A marked change in Doppel that summer. Spent time wandering on his mountain bike with his tree-planting beard looking like Jesus in Vancouver, and then he went to Australia until he was struck down with arthritis in the ankles and knees. That was when my brother became humble.

I never had that experience.

“So where do you reckon we are?” Doppel took out his map from his breast pocket and then checked his compass. He rubbed his knee.

“Nearing Prescot.”

“Sore knee?”

“Right in the middle of the bone it feels like a bruise that seems to be getting worse.” He waved his hand. “Old injury. I have lots of those.”

Chapter Nineteen

A Man-in-Full


I awoke in the corner of my tent wrapped warmly in my sleeping bag. As I began to move I felt the stiffness settling into my limbs from riding. Walking out of my tent I was crouched over but hopeful I could work out the soreness with riding. I took my time packing my tent, carefully trying not to strain my tight back. Doppel came back from the riverside. 

“Another beautiful day,” he said. He was limping a little bit.

“There’s something very cleansing about Canada’s summers. How’s that bum knee today?”

“Sore knee today but it should iron out. Pain is one of those things one has to live with.”

“Very Aristotelian of you,” I said. “I remember that year you couldn’t walk. I know you know about pain.” We seldom ever discussed his arthritis during that year he couldn’t walk. But today I wonder if the scar tissue in his knees and ankles bother him. 

“It was more like two years.”

“Weren’t you on crutches for twelve months?”

“About that, but even after I ditched the crutches I was limping pretty badly for another twelve. In the mornings getting out of bed was the worst time. Sometimes it took me a few minutes just to stand up. But one morning the pain just disappeared. It was two weeks shy of two complete years. That was exactly twenty years ago.”

“Has it bothered you since then?”

“The odd time, when I’m overtired my ankles and toes stiffen. It’s just like an old injury.”

“Ever worry it may come back?”

“Well, yes. If I were to become sick or run down, it could return but this time it would be longer and more permanent. And I think more serious. But if that’s my fate then I accept it. We are all lily pads partially eaten mid-summer by some insect that lives around the pond, eh?”

“Yes, we all get nibbled.”

“Pain reminds the Viking-Poet that he is living. And maybe through his exploits can attain freedom from his pain. If he can immerse himself so deeply into his flow – his zeitqualia – so that he loses his sense of pain, he could actually skim atop the earth using his momentum to overpower gravity. Perhaps there is even qualia in his pain.”

“The pain’ness of pain,” I said, sounding unintentionally cynical. “So, this zeitqualia again, what is it again?” Hand on my chin.

“It’s being in the marrow of the moment, the point zero of incongruity and the flight of least turbulence. It is the full manifestation of being in the now – sliding on the wet ice of time.”

“Okay, but what I mean is, is it a sensation?”

“Yes. Kant calls it ‘intensive magnitude’ or a degree of influence on the sense. He believed perception contains sensation and that a magnitude of apprehension causes increased intensity in the sensation. By removing the translucent glass protecting you from ontological reality, perceptions clear and you become in touch with the raw texture of adventure, the strategy of conquering movement using mountain bike logic. It is the mastery of elements. There is a synergy you get – a buzz – from the act itself.” He sighed. “So many choose not to undertake exploits and they lack the essential zeitqualia elements in their lives. That’s the point.”

“So then this whole thing is a Crusade? You’re a Crusader?” Irony thick.

“You could say that. It’s a Crusade to enlighten those still slumbering, whose instincts are drowsy, and who have forgotten the thrill of adventure. I care for my fellow man despite the fact that my fellow man is sickly these days – from too much TV and whatnot.”

“Do you think I’m sick?” That laugh again; it felt good and sad to hear again. Most genuine laugh I have ever heard, as if he were trying to stifle it.

“Not after our Taiwan road trip.”

Doppel was packed up so he checked the air pressure of his tires, tightened his brakes with a quarter turn of the micro-adjustment screw. He checked the rack before he put his tent on it and discovered one of the screws fastening the rack onto the back frame had come loose. So he took out a square-head screwdriver from his tool kit and tightened it one-and-a-half rotations.

“I’d say this was the source of the rattling over the bumps yesterday,” he said. Since he was at it, he put his bike upside down on its seat and handlebars and oiled the chain lightly with more Phil’s Tenacious Oil. As he rotated the pedals the chain flowed smoothly almost without sound or friction, the thick protective oil covering each link in the chain.

His Miele mountain bike was in prime shape.

“It is curious to find so many people today behind bars and locked in their jail cell by their own hand,” he said. “One of humankind’s most comic traits is shown by those who self-censor their own spiritual expression and development through the constant and perhaps uncontrollable repression of their true person. It is a fortress of self-censorship that imprisons countless people all over the world. They stifle their healthy instincts and true thoughts. It very well may be a more punishing form of imprisonment than physical incarceration.” This was surprising to hear from Doppel because I had never really thought he cared about humanity. Everything about my brother revolved around him – not in a bad way but in a way that was contrasted with the vast majority of others. Perhaps Howie had caused him to care for someone other than himself?

After I loaded the tent and my bag on the rack, I climbed on my mountain bike and began riding along the smooth, freshly paved road by the waterway. For a while I wondered if that comment about self-censorship and imprisonment was directed at me. I was the brother who had shut him out. I was the one who chose the conventional life path. I had lost touch with my compassion and with my instincts, so he saw me as sick – not quite a 21st-century man but certainly not a man-in-full.

We both coasted with the current of the St. Lawrence getting closer to the Quebec border. The eastern peach in the sky warmed the morning air as we cycled past cozy motels littered along the Parkway near Maitland.

Then we stopped to read a plaque:


V.C., D.S.O., 1890-1960

Born in Lachute, Quebec, MacDowell moved to Maitland in 1897. He attended local schools and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1915. During World War 1, he enlisted on January 9, 1915, in the 38th Battalion, C.E.F. On April 9, 1917, during the battle of Vimy Ridge, assisted by two runners, he captured two machine guns, two officers and seventy-five men. With the vision of the enemy obscured by a turn in a passage in the dugout, he was able to convince them that he commanded a vastly superior force. His action eliminated a serious obstacle to the gaining of his battalion’s objective, and he was awarded the British Empire’s highest decoration for valour, the Victoria Cross.

I took a swig of water and let it all sink in.

“Sounds like our own Sergeant York,” I said.

“Good example of someone who thrived in the art of exploit execution. Remember an exploit is when one can see one’s own worth, whether mediocre or filled with modest greatness.”

“A good war story.”

“Well, that’s it isn’t it? We don’t have wars to fight – not our generation. So this is our battle: the choosing and the excellent execution of exploits.”

“Interesting worldview.” I was now very aware of how few exploits I had done in comparison with Doppel.

“Well, without the outlet to exploit, a man with passion will implode from lack of use of vital sensibilities that make him a man-in-full.”

“Addictions and whatnot.’

“Abuse like that, yes. Give a man a battlefield or playground; it’s the same thing. But playgrounds can be truly unique, like the mountains of Taiwan or the rugged beauty of the St. Lawrence Seaway. But exploit or war, it’s the same ancient codebook of behaviour that springs into play. The important thing is to expend that energy so that the organism may grow.”

“A snowballing action.”

“Precisely. It snowballs, both in abilities and from the inner glow of accomplishment. Part and parcel with the accumulation of creative achievement is the fervor and flush of what I call infinite goodness. The outlet of expression is compassion you have for others. Over time the snowballing glow spills over creating an urge to spread the goodness around. The act of giving is poetic, so manifesting this action only adds to the richness of one’s brush. ”


“Good doggy,” he replied.

“I don’t know how you did that.”

“Howie adapted quickly after that dangling episode off my thigh during the first hour of riding.”

“She did have excellent balance at the end.”

Doppel pulled out a photo of Howie from his journal and showed it to me. All those memories from Taiwan came flooding back to me, which enlivened me riding until we came to the town of Prescot. We were about halfway to Montreal.


Chapter Twenty



At the base of a shallow peninsula surrounded by a jutting log fence with sharpened ends was Fort Wellington, a key stronghold during the War of 1812 between the British and the Americans. Above the fence was a twelve-foot ridge where the British could eye anyone attempting to take the fence. Halfway up the thirty-foot earth mound were more log spikes jutting out of the wall at an angle designed to create the highest degree of difficulty. The actual wooden building 30 feet up was quite small for a fort that had seen so much action.

Doppel read the historical plaque:


The first Fort Wellington was erected on this site during the War of 1812 to shelter British regular troops and Canadian militia defending the vital St. Lawrence River transportation route. In February 1813 these soldiers crossed the ice to capture Ogdensburg New York. When rebellion threatened Upper Canada in 1838 the fort was in ruins. Construction had scarcely begun on the present fort in November 1838 when a band of Canadian rebels and American sympathizers attacked; they were defeated nearby at the Battle of the Windmill by troops assembled at the fort.

“Key location this fort.”

“It’s such a wicked design,” he said.

“It’s the artist in you.”

“It’s so simple yet effective. No turrets. Simple construction. Very crisp fencing technique.”

“Hard to believe there was an Upper Canada Rebellion in 1838. Such a seldom mentioned point in Canadian history.”

“Unlike the War of 1812.”

“Which the Americans never mention.” Doppel’s laugh bounced off the pointed fence of the fort. I walked over to another historical plaque near it and returned the favour of reading it.



Born in Stanford, Connecticut, he forfeited 500,000 acres near Albany, New York, by taking up arms for the King on the outbreak of the American Revolution. He raised the Loyal (Jessups) Rangers and served under Burgoyne. This corps was disbanded at the end of the war, its members settling in the present Leeds and Grenville counties, and on the Bay of Quinte. In return for his services, Jessup received extensive lands from the Crown. In 1810 a town site was surveyed on this grant, which he named after Robert Prescot, Governor-in-Chief of Canada, 1797-1807.

“Loyalty. The primary underpinning of all.”

“Radical loyalist. He gave up half a million acres.”

“Loyalty to Crown, loyalty to purpose, loyalty to his brother,” he said.

“Sounds like he ended up with a fair shake from the King.”

“Unlike Radisson.”

“Along this stretch of boundary between Canada and the US is where all the crossing went on.”

“Makes sense. It’s just a question of crossing the water.”

“Or in the case of the British troops, crossing the ice to take Ogdensburg.”

“Which is right there.” He pointed across the water to the treed riverbank where the river was wider. I welcomed the breeze.

“Do you know where the Battle of the Windmill is?”

“Wish my Canadian history was better.”

“We’ll find it.”

“Darn right we will.” He hopped on his bike and I rode beside him down the road. A car came whizzing by me, missing me by a hair. Dust flew up in my face that gave me a surge of adrenalin shooting through me.

“The bastard didn’t even give me an inch!”

“Ah, the 21st-century man. You’re bugging him by enjoying yourself.”

I picked up my pace and rode ahead of Doppel, sweat soaked into my socks as the sun warmed my legs, unceasingly generating my flow. The heat fired my inner hue of intensity. We rode for many kilometers. Way past the fort I reached another historical marker indicating a right turn to see a windmill. I slowed for Doppel and we both headed down the quiet road going with the current of the river. In a minute we came to a Dutch style windmill at the water.


After the 1837 Rebellions many fled to the United States where a few joined American sympathizers in a new attempt to overthrow British Rule in Canada. On 12 November 1838 they landed 190 men here and seized this windmill and nearby buildings. The local people remained loyal, reporting to their militia units; in a few days, 2,000 militias and regulars, supported by naval vessels, besieged the mill. Although British guns did little damage to the mill, the insurgents, seeing no escape surrendered on the 16th.

Twenty rebels were killed and another 20 were wounded in the battle, while 15 soldiers were killed and 55 were wounded. The captured rebels were tried. Eleven were hanged and 60 exiled to Australia.

“The local people remained loyal to the King.”

“Four days it took for surrender,” I said.

“They were outnumbered ten to one.”

“It seems as if the militia was effective.”

“A trip to Australia to a new life doesn’t seem so bad. One exploit results in another exploit.” There were white caps on the water in front of the windmill, where the grass on the field shimmered in the wind.

“This was a crushing defeat to the rebels. It paved the way to a united Canada in 1840, which then fostered the full biggie in 1867.”

“That’s what I’m saying: one exploit is the cause of another exploit.”

I sat down by a cluster of birch trees close to the sandy lip of the shore where scraps of wood and shells were scattered on the gray sand. With the small green islands around the outer waters of the bay, there was a sense that the clouds above were at full speed. Nature stirred and the seagulls glided in the bantering wind. Doppel went into the woods to have a pee and for a moment I wondered if in fact I was a 21st-century man. Had Doppel been trying to tell me something all along?

I took out my Walt Whitman and read:

You are also asking me questions and I hear you,

I answer that I cannot answer,

You must find out for yourself.

Doppel returned and sat on the grass, exhausted. There were spirits here of the dead so we hopped on our bikes and rode slowly towards the Quebec border.

At the top of a hill we could see the St. Lawrence snake northeast between rocks and trees near Cornwall, then a national park. Manicured greenery had been separated from the mainland due to the massive flooding. Doppel stopped at one of the picnic tables where there was a line of trees marking the 45th parallel.

“I feel compelled to stop.”


“Because this is a mark on a map. And I usually take time to acknowledge points on a map. See, I can pinpoint us to right here.” He put his finger on the map where the 45th parallel met the river.

“Almost in French Canada.”

“Still in British territory,” I said.

“Not for long.”

“You’re right. Maybe only a few more kilometers to Lower Canada.” He nodded.

“For some reason I’m feeling weak today,” said Doppel. “So I wouldn’t mind resting.” He opened his bag and put on a sweater before he lied back and watched the trees rustle in the wind.

I did the same.

Gulls caught in the breeze were motionless as they floated, most missing feathers but all sharply watching us. Soon – within minutes – Doppel fell asleep, and then in his sleep turned on his side towards me. Something in me welled up and started crying. Something old rustled inside of me, as if we were again babies. I looked at my brother and he looked so weak and helpless. I felt an overpowering sense of protectiveness and stayed there watching over him, his fingers skinny and his face riddled with red splotches. But he lay there for hours turned to me sleeping. At peace. Safe. Beside me – his twin.

He had never abandoned me. It had been me who had abandoned him. He had always been loyal.

Chapter Twenty-One

The Inflected Matrix


I dreamed I was riding my bike uphill turning left with the St. Lawrence wind coming from the left. It felt like I was going sideways buffered by wind and gravity, cruising in 16th gear, approaching the sun at 45-degree angle. With perfect traction, I slid into the turn with my rolling wheels in a perfectly straight line, with my wheels straight, I fell into a floating turn.

When I opened my eyes Doppel was still lying beside me, turned to me, asleep. He hadn’t moved an inch.

I laid there still beside him not wanting to wake him. I thought about our trip, knowing where we were, sure for the first time we were going to make it to see my father. Two boats sailed by upstream, one barren with no sail and powered by motor, the other laden with sails and a spinnaker hanging off the mast.


Later in the afternoon after he had awaken, we ate some food. Actually, I feasted but Doppel wasn’t that hungry, only thirsty. He was more interested in his book by Kant. He had had Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason for years. He was obsessed with it and brought it with him almost always, keeping it at the very bottom of his knapsack. I had never really cared for the book – too wordy for me. And his ideas were so complex. I preferred simplicity in language and thought.

Immanuel Kant was neither of those things.

So I reached for my water bottle and for more food in my bag and feasted. For a moment I didn’t know if it was dusk or dawn. Doppel was hunched over reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

“Good to polish up on my Kant.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, because the guy is such an intellect!”


“Maybe, but with purpose. Has some good ideas about time.”


“He says that man has a natural intuition of time and space, and that time is quanta continua, meaning it must be looked at as continual because otherwise time and space would just be an empty point. An instant in the time continuum can only be a point, and a point in time by definition is void of any length of time. Therefore points of time would be 0 + 0 + 0 + 0. Time therefore must always be considered as duration.”

“I can see that.”

“Kant says ‘the continuity of time is ordinarily designated by the term flowing or flowing away.’ See, he’s got it.”

“But Kant never traveled more than 40 miles from his home over his entire lifetime. Not much a Viking-Poet.”


“So a point in time becomes an instant merely at the beginning or end of a finite duration.”

“The problem with that is that we are forced, it seems, to define the present as the end of the past and the beginning of the future.”

“The now would then be void.”

“Exactly. So that’s why it must be duration. And for me in that duration there should be qualia.”

“How can we see both duration and points in time?”

“Ah! You put your finger on what I was just reading about. Kant calls it transcendental schema. It is the magical function we have in the imagination that bridges between instants in time and the sensibility of time as duration. He says this schema is the synthesis of perception with the representation of time. It is the filling in of time.”

“What does the word schema mean outside of the world of Kant?”

“Schema is the orderly arrangement of parts, as in a philosophic system. It’s the rover force that makes time, as defined as an infinite series of instants, intelligible as a quantum flow. He says of this that it is ‘art concealed in the depths of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely to ever allow us to discover, and to have open to our gaze.’”

“That’s some heavy stuff there maestro.”

“Well, Kant never undertook exploits. That’s why it was never revealed to him. But it has been to us. I think Kant’s transcendental schema is that faculty in us that is our mountain bike logic that inflects, like I was talking about before. If this schema is a product of the imagination, like he says it is, then it could be that sensible thing that bridges our sense perception and bends our natural logical apparatus to that sense data in the natural world that we encounter when we, for example, mountain bike.” For some reason I took his journal and sketched out what he meant on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

“Is this what you mean? An inflected matrix.”

The inflected matrix

“Bro, that is amazing.” He wrote beside the diagram so he could fit it into his philosophy. “This diagram – this inflected matrix – illustrates the logical system I think we all use in the world, rather than in the staid world of linear logic. See, inflection is the key word here because the illusion of a perfect match eludes even the keenest of logicians.”

“So when you use the word ‘inflection,’ what exactly do you mean?”

“Think of the word ‘flex.’ Inflection is an angle or bend, or a modulation in the voice. It is a change in a plane curve from convex to concave. It’s a pattern of change in form undergone by words to express grammatical and syntactical relations. To inflect is to vary the tone of pitch of the voice, or modulate. It is to turn from a straight or usual course, and to bend. To inflect is to give or recite the inflections of a word by conjugating or declension. It is to alter the form of a word by inflection. Comes from the Latin inflectere, meaning ‘to bend.’”

“I think I understand-ish.”

“Exactly! The English suffix ‘ish’ is a great example of bending to match what we actually see in the world.”

“Thus the bent lines in the sketch.”

“Nice one man! See, Kant believes that we don’t learn math, we discover math. He believes that we are born with a logical system in our heads and that reading mathematics is discovering a dormant language of pure logic. It awakens the logical system. If the logical system is accurately represented by, for example, symbolic logic, then a logical system must be linear in nature. But the way we actually intuit logic from the empirical world is with this organic, time-sensitive bendable, mountain bike logic. And it’s this transcendental schema that Kant mentions that is the bending agent.”

“As you said, fills in the corners.”

“Makes it all sensible.” The light in his eyes was positively electrifying. “Are you starting to see my system?” I was about to say yes but I stopped.

“Here,” he said, “let me give you a bird’s eye view before the sun sets.”

He sketched in his journal:


(Enjoying quality in time by using mountain bike logic)


 (Kant’s Transcendental Schema)



(Binary)                                                              (Language structure)

Syntax                                                                        Experience

Linear                                                                         De-linear

Static                                                                           Dynamic

“See, you have zeitqualia at the top. It’s the synthesis of both systems of logic and represents the mastery of the perceiver (subject) over the empirical world (object). On one side you have linear logic and on the other you have inflected logic. Linear rationale comes from proper syntax while inflected logic comes from experience, namely the exploit. One is static in nature and the other is dynamic in nature.”

I sat looking at this structure, shocked at its sweeping distinctions and clean divisions.

“Yes, now I can see your system.”

“See zeitqualia at the top is what we all gun for. It’s the buzz – the high – one gets from motorcycling or mountain biking. Or sailing. Or whatever it is that turns your cranky. Even Kant mentions it but not in name. Here, let me read what he says about that: He writes of the ‘quality of sensation, as for instance in colors, taste, etc. is always merely empirical, and cannot be represented a priori. Empirical consciousness can in inner sense be raised from 0 to any higher degree, so that a certain extensive magnitude of intuition, as for instance of illuminated surface, may become excited as great a sensation as the combined aggregate of many such surfaces less illuminated.’ He’s tough to read but this is Kant talking about the degree of qualia in experience. This ‘quality of sensation’ is my ‘qualia.’ It is a sensation of magnitude experienced through in time.”

I was quiet for a while as darkness overran the orange hue of the setting sunlight. We were both mulling over what was said as we both pitched our tents beside the forest where it met the fast-flowing river. Our food was down to the basics and my stomach rumbled with hunger. I craved a hot meal.

But after I had brushed my teeth and had slipped into my sleeping bag I asked Doppel a question that made me restless.

“So what does all this mean?”

Doppel, too, was snug in his sleeping bag with his door open. He sat up and spoke after thinking about it for a while.

“It means that if the fundamental logic of inflection, found in languages, is a mirror of man’s a priori logical apparatus, then we could use that skeletal structure to create a better logical system to analyze the natural world.”

Something happened after hearing these words. This one sentence tied it all together.

“Now I see it. Now I see why. Now I see what you’re doing. And man, that’s pretty damn groovy bro.”

“So if we could ever apprehend and decipher and duplicate the inherent structure of logic in language, then we would have a blueprint of our fundamental cognitive structure.”

“It also explains why symbolic logic has fallen short for so many years within the branch of logic in Philosophy. I remember studying that 25 years ago.”

“Yes. It would show the form of logic we use in our daily lives. Mountain bike logic takes into consideration the quantum phenomena not considered by traditional linear logic, like undergraduate symbolic logic that is taught. The random oddities of an exploit cannot fall outside of the domain of inflected logic. The dynamic of inflection allows the ride to become a flow.”

“Sorry, what does it all mean again?” Irony.

“It means, my twin brother, that a mountain biker who sacrifices quality at the cost of time has a lower degree of inner magnitude.” The delivery was deadpan. We both laughed, especially Doppel who was quickly out of breath.

“What it means is,” I said, “if one has poor inflection one has a blind spot.”


“Or is missing the middle part.”

“Yes. It means that having excellent inflection increase the magnitude of quality. It means, my brother, that one’s rationale isn’t purely logical or purely poetic; rather our rational foundation has the pillar of logic and the pillar of poetry that are balanced using inflection. It means, von Schöngait, that one shoe is straight and one shoe is curved.”

Doppel had come up with his own system of philosophy as it relates to the Socratic project: the art of living.

A wolf cried in the timbers.

Chapter Twenty-two

Experiencing Zeitqualia


It was a cold night. Nothing stirred. I woke up early and watched the fluorescent tangerine balance on the horizon for a moment before the earth fell away. The ball of infinite goodness that Doppel explained welled up in me as I beheld the sun. A sunrise is such a thing of beauty: the life-giver arrives bestowing warmth to all that ask. I thought about it all, the good, the qualia of beauty, and the mystical are all born from the same source. The faculty within us that receives enlightenment: that is the divine in our soul. It is the home of wonderment for poet-philosophers who try to define and describe, construct and deconstruct, like trying to grip a watermelon seed between your fingers. So the poet-philosopher becomes an artist of imperfection – a connoisseur of all that lies outside normative logic – the residue – the evidence of imperfection – and strives to overcome the need for complete possession and absolute categorization. He is forced to live with the enigma of ‘what is good?’ Labeling from endless analysis eventually becomes a game of sticking the closest hieroglyph to a phenomenon – using blunt instruments trying to measure the ethers of magic.

She is too slippery to capture and identify. But Doppel had made an attempt. And perhaps captured the incongruity of how we face it all.

My identical twin brother came out of his tent and sat on the grass beside me.

“Slept well?”

“The knee is a bit raw today,” I said. “As always.”

He drank water and ate a bit of cheese and bread. He looked drained from yesterday. I had nothing to share but the confidence of brotherhood as I ate silently beside him. Just being there beside him bathed me in a blanket of love that soothed the sharp edges that were beginning to sting me. This is it, I thought, this moment will never happen again. How does one immerse totally in the moment? To exist as a point in time is to lose your duration, to cease to exist. Maybe the non-quantifiable point is a smudge or a blur that lasts for an unknown moment, as I held on to it then, not wanting my present situation to change. Was that happiness: not wanting to change your present situation. If so I was happy there beside my twin brother. Our silence was perfect. A perfect moment. A union of two souls bound by blood and chance, with no requisite words to disturb. A language beyond logic, unspoken and without flaw, a sensation of security and comfort, yet knowing it is, in fact, the final moment.

“It will be good to see Dad.”

“Yeah, it will.”

We packed and slowly coasted to a pedaling speed through the park. No one was around. The pavement was already hot. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The top of my head felt like an egg frying. My mouth was sandpaper so I stopped and quaffed all the water I have. I wrapped a bandana around my frying egg Aunt Jehmima style, and then hopped on my bike and caught up to Doppel feeling that sense of freedom that uplifts. An open road and flow, we didn’t stop until we reached Cornwall.

“There’s a Mohawk reserve here on an island between Cornwall and the States,” said Doppel. “Let’s check it out.” I knew better than to argue with Doppel about such a detour so we cycled the kilometer to the bridge that lead to the Mohawk reserve in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. I climbed in low gear up the crest of the half-kilometer long bridge when the protective railings beside me disappeared. Ominous crosswinds created a very shaky flow. With only two feet of space between me and falling off into a free fall to a very hard splash, and with the bridge reverberating from passing cars, I gracefully reached for my brake. I cut myself a wide berth of space away from the shimmering diamonds on the surface of the St. Lawrence below. I couldn’t ignore the vacuous gusts and my slippery tires. I carefully lowered my weight as I slowed to a stop but Doppel went on, passing me as I stopped. I walked my bike off the narrow bridge walkway onto the roadway because the curb was two-feet high and two-feet wide. I had to laugh at Doppel’s bravery balancing there 500 feet above the frigid waters of the river below, negotiating the two-foot-wide sidewalk as the cars whizzed by him.

The guy had guts.

Coasting down the tail end of the other side of the crest on the bridge, I met Doppel at the entrance to the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve. It wasn’t different from anywhere else except for the number of dogs, so we kept riding right back over the bridge and back to the road leading to Montreal.

With the sun nearly overhead a flow of adrenaline from the strength I felt flushed through my limbs carrying me faster. I caught a swift groove along the thicker currents above Cornwall and found myself at the top of a hill where the view was clear to the water. I felt the warmth of the sun and smiled at the beauty of the moment. I coasted and savored then descended the hill, accelerating and feeling exhilaration I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. My legs pedaled like pistons, burned numb, drowning all history into the now. My pack felt like a bunch of feathers and the stream of my cycle-flow didn’t even enter my immediate consciousness. I personified flexibility between rider and machine as if it were an inflecting bike. That oneness existed forever in that long moment of time.

After an indefinable period of time I emerged at the bottom of a long hill where I approached a sign for another fort. I slowed my pace and turned for the fort knowing Doppel would find me.

Right after a small creek and a stone bridge I saw the fort. It was an eerie place littered with stone ruins outlining the remnants of old foundations. By the waterfront there were two blockhouses. They were tall, six-sided structures that were like turrets for riflemen. Both blockhouses were perched at the point in the rapids. It was the range of sight to Montreal that made it an ideal location.

Like the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm and the Battle of the Windmill, there were restless spirits here.

I put down my mountain bike and went to the plaque.


From 1778 until the mid-19th century, Couteau-du-Lac was the site of a British military post which defended the passage and facilitated the transportation of supplies along the St. Lawrence. It was of strategic importance to the defense of Canada during the American Revolution and during the War of 1812 when its fortifications were added to strengthen its position. In addition to the supply depot and fort, one of the earliest locks in North America was constructed here in 1770-1780 on a canal which was in continued use until it was superseded by the Beauharnois Canal in the 1840s.

Right beside it there was another plaque.

THE WAR OF 1812-1814

British Forces at Coteau-du-Lac

During the War of 1812, many infantry and artillery detachments, as well as several militia corps, converged on Couteau-du-Lac. Some were assigned to garrison duties and took part in the construction of defensive works, while others were only passing through on their way to a farther destination of the Great Lakes front. In addition, many of the troops assembled at Couteau-du-Lac had a mission to ward off any land manoeuvres made by the enemy between Prescot and Montreal.

I could see the British muster in this place and the constant roar of the rapids is a natural reminder of the New World. Barracks that could sleep over 200 soldiers, a hospital, two blockhouses still standing after one was burnt by the rebels during the Upper Canada Rebellion.

I fell back on the grass near three canons and watched the birds scout for fish. The seagulls were as plentiful as the water and the fish.

I heard Doppel’s bike approach.

“The Viking Wizard arrives.”

“Nice peninsula,” he said. “Those blockhouses look medieval.”

“Certainly they look Tudor in style.”

“There’s a spirit here,” he said, “more so than the other forts and battlegrounds.”

“It feels different here. It’s different territory.”

“The land of Jacques Cartier.”

I sat on the embankment and was warmed by the sun. I was still so tired that I dozed off asleep and dreamed that there was a red bird on a nearby branch. Then I saw my brother across the rapids by a thin island covered with trees. Swooping birds and splashing fish and the off-white clouds roaring overhead created a blurred image. I couldn’t make out the face but I was sure it was Doppel. He had the same facial geometry as me. Then the wind picked up and the birds flapped their wings but didn’t move away. Finally a gust of wind rolled off the shore and pushed him off the embankment into the water, splashing. When I opened my eyes I saw a red bird flying away. The thundering sound of the rapids filled me with something I needed. The spray in the air echoed a hundred past stories that spoke to the dragonflies and bumblebees.

Doppel was sitting beside me, looking at me closely.

“I’m glad we took this trip Stüffle,” he said. I told him I was too but it only let him become aware of the sadness in my voice.

We returned to the road from the theatre of war and lumbered towards our last night in the tents. Doppel selected a spot beside a tourist information center right by the road. It was safe and it had soft, manicured grass. It started to rain just as we finished with our tents. I knew it was just a matter of time before we would both be soaked.

One of the blockhouses sketched in Doppel’s journal

Chapter Twenty-three

A Dying Man


We cycled to warm up at the crack of dawn and greeted the sunrise together for the first time on our journey: the brilliance of an electrifying orange, sudden and assertive in the cold morning air.

Soon we came to a gray sign that read:


Manmade inlets were carved into the shoreline every couple of hundred metres, houses built in clusters, remnants of the infrastructure from the Habitant days attracting pioneers with arable land backing out from the river in the shape of long slivers. We passed old and new locks, some decrepit and some in use, the road barren, chipped and bumpy and hard to ride. We crossed the elongated bridge to the island of Montreal, past Beaconsfield and then Point Claire and Dorval. The homes beautiful beside the white-capped river flowing towards the Atlantic. There were only a few cyclists and a few walkers along the path where we stopped. It was there that I saw the full extent of Doppel’s pain. He hobbled to a bench where he sat, choosing not to hide anything anymore from me.

He had suddenly become an old man.

“We’re almost there. There’s the Champlain Bridge,” he said, pointing. Brave.

“We can see Dad today.” He took a deep breath.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” he said. “I’m ill. I have something similar to my Reiter’s Syndrome but it’s a little heavier I think.”

“Okay.” I’m empathetic, expected something.

“It is a fatal disease that affects the limbs.”


“My cells are dying and my limbs and then organs will harden with scar tissue until my death.”


“There’s no treatment and they don’t know what causes it. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier but I couldn’t find the right time. I actually flew here to Canada to tell you but our time was so good I didn’t want to wreck it.” I looked closely at my brother and I could see it in his eyes. He was dying.

“As I said to you before,” he continued, “my biggest regret is that we didn’t spend more time together as adults. Always thought we’d have the time.”

“Me too. I suppose that’s why I asked you to take this bike trip with me.”

“I know bro.

I was speechless.

“I’ve accepted it. I mean, I wrestled with the ‘why’ but I’m past that now. I just don’t want you to have a bird or anything if I croak without me telling you. But man, I’m pretty hacked up.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“You could see that I was out of breath a lot. It’s as if my lungs have become solid, hardened and now totally closed like a pistachio. Withered and dried. Hands in a permanent state of claw. Wrists swollen and purple, skin scaly like a dinosaur. Knuckles gnarled, knotted. Upper back in spasm. Headache. Ankles like balloons. I must have got this because I never went back for that second tetanus shot when I was cut. Lock jaw with the lower left neck. Sinews under attack. Knees red. Kidneys failing. Liver shot. Heart palpitations. Water in the elbows. Dude, it’s been a downhill ride.”

“Does Dad know?”

“No. Haven’t spoken to him in seven years.”

“Not once?”

“No. Mom knows. I told her not to tell you though. I wanted to tell you. I don’t want you to be devastated by this because I know how I would react if you told me these words. So be comforted that I’m at peace with you and the world. I wish we had had this Handbook discussion twenty years ago because I certainly think you would’ve chosen a different paths and done different things.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that.”

“I hope you write it all down for others to learn and be inspired by it though. Expand the Handbook to a book for humanity.” I looked at him but his eyes were dark and stormy.

“Okay bro, I will.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

“And if you can take care of Howie. She is the only one that has ever needed me, and I needed to be needed.” That’s what it was, I thought to myself, I had stopped needing him since childhood. It had been Howie that had changed him. She had enriched him emotionally and that’s what he had thirsted for since we grew apart. The earthquake puppy, the female canine fellow Viking-Poet – according to Doppel’s philosophy – was the missing ingredient in his life to make him more balanced so he could complete his masterpiece.

Here, behold the man who had lived deeply but who was now dying. Behold the man who was brave. Behold the man who had truly lived.



Later that day we went to see our father unannounced at his home. When he saw Dad, Doppel suddenly lost his posture and became like a weak child, as if finally back to his roots – to the rock who had nurtured him as a young boy. His chest seemed to crumple when he embraced Dad, his strength dissipated as if air had been let out of a tube. He started to cry and then couldn’t stop. His convulsed in Dad’s arms, unable to speak. Dad just held him, skin and bones, his body hardened and depleted. He disappeared in his arms, no longer the man hearty with life and zeal eager to take on life and the endless exploits that lay all around him. There, in the stillness of the room, he simply passed away, like a leaf falling of a branch, a once mighty oak now dried out and blown over by the wind. Even though I knew he was sick I still didn’t expect the end to be so quick. He had risen to the occasion to return to be with me, cycling the long distance to be with me, his identical twin brother and oldest friend. None of us spoke. My father and I looked at each other in the eye, the sadness and tragedy evident in our expression. The loss I felt at that moment can never be fully explained or described. A part of me died. The better half of my soul left me void of that comfort and love I had carried with me from the earliest moments of my life. Forever I would only be a fraction of what I was; of what we were together. I am less now. And Doppel was now living his life over and over again for eternity in an afterlife that celebrated the beautiful canvas that was his life, full of colour and new vistas from all over the world, memories and images rich in meaning and variation from an original life of a man who lived earnestly and with purpose and meaning who cared for life so much that he dedicated his free time to recording his journey so that others who came along after him knew of his life and benefitted from his knowledge and perhaps would be inspired by his life.

It is because of this I have written this record of my twin brother so that others might come to know him. And his life. And the philosophy he was so passionate about.



Thank you for taking the time to read my book Earthquake Puppy. You can read The Viking-Poet Handbook as a companion piece to this work. I hope there is some inspiration gained from the words uttered here.

About the Author

Peter Higgins was born in Vancouver but grew up in Toronto, graduating from Queen’s University in 1990 and then with a master’s degree from the University of Hong Kong in 2004. Mr. Higgins worked as a professional writer in Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong for ten years before he returned to Canada to write novels. He currently lives with his family on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada.