Friday, November 30, 2007

Robyn Hitchcock

It’s cool that there are enough cool things in the world that, even at my advanced age, I can have the good fortune to discover something cool I had never known about before.

In this case, I’m speaking specifically of the very cool singer-songwriter, Robyn Hitchcock, who, although his name rang a bell, I had never really listened to until last night when my sister Deb, visiting Seattle on what she called a “notebook conference” (as opposed to a “schwag bag conference”), took all of us to seem him play at the downtown nightclub, The Triple Door.

The club was cool, too: strong drinks, good food, and (at least last night) all-fucking-ages, so parents could sit and enjoy alcoholic libations right next to the kid, in public, and get this, Washington State Alcohol Board, the world didn’t come to an end, nor does the child seem any worse for wear from the experience.

Jen, somewhat against her better judgment as a working artist with a big presentation due today, joined me a in little pre-concert safety meeting outside, but that turned out to be just the thing to really appreciate Hitchcock’s stony way of looking at the world, his goofy twee sense of humor, and his randomly literate lyrical stylings.

We cracked up for the first ten minutes of the show, hardly able to believe the perfectly odd things coming out of Hitchcock’s mouth, while Mimi amused herself illustrating the words to song like Queen Elvis: “people get what they deserve/time is round and space is curved.”

The set featured a bunch of Hitchcock’s own songs and a number of covers, including a couple of Dylan tunes, where—in my humble opinion—he did a better Dylan than Dylan, at least one Beatles number, and my favorite of the evening, the old Byrds’ paean to psychedelic social change, “Eight Miles High.”

So now I’m totally a Robyn Hitchcock fan, which—even at this late date—is kinda cool.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gawd Damn It

According to the AP: “Richard Roberts told students at Oral Roberts University Wednesday that he did not want to resign as president of the scandal-plagued evangelical school, but he did so because God insisted.” And also: “Roberts said he wanted to ‘strike out’ against the people who were persecuting him, and considered countersuing, but ‘the Lord said, 'don't do that,'’ he said.”

I know that God is omnipresent and all, but does He really have time to micromanage like this? Does a supreme being actually offer legal advice in civil cases? (Criminal, maybe, but tort law?)

Maybe I’m just jealous of a guy who has a direct line to the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly-good Creator of the universe, but it sure seems to me like Roberts hasn’t given us the inside dope on all the conversations he’s had with the Man. For instance, did God tell him to engage in what the lawsuit calls “lavish spending at a time when the university faced more than $50 million in debt, including taking shopping sprees, buying a stable of horses and paying for a daughter to travel to the Bahamas aboard the university jet?”

If so, then God sure has some funny priorities, and for that matter, an odd way of conducting business, too. I mean, why put the girl on a plane? Couldn’t He just whisk her to the islands via His omnipotence? Air travel seems way less difficult than creating a stone so heavy He can’t lift it—and still lifting it!—a task my evangelical friends assure me is well within His awesome powers.

You might wonder why God didn’t tell Roberts not to spend all that cash in the first place, but apparently, God likes these contractual conditions. On Wednesday, Roberts said God told him he would ''do something supernatural for the university,'' if he stepped down from the job.

Maybe the deal was, Roberts takes the fall and God gets His name in the papers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Hate Football

It’s a good thing the Steelers eventually prevailed last night in their Sod Bowl game, eking out a 3-0 victory on a field goal with 17 seconds left in regulation, because, had they not, I’d have wanted to kick the dog, punch the wall, and throw my empty Rolling Rock bottle through the window.

Did I enjoy myself watching the game while listening to it several seconds delayed on the internet? Hard to say; I found it exciting at times, but mostly, it was like putting up with someone scratching their fingernails across a blackboard for a couple hours. My overall sense when it was over was one of relief; had it gone on much longer, I would have had to switch from beer to whiskey, generally not an advisable course of action on a school night.

But I wouldn’t have missed it; most of yesterday, I was looking forward to seeing the game and when it was delayed half an hour by lightening in the Steel City, I became impatient and a little out of sorts at the change in schedule.

The familiar voices of Steelers’ announcers Tunch Ilkin and Bill Hilgrove comforted me, though, and I anticipated an easy win over a lousy team, which would also earn me a few bucks on a sure bet that Pittsburgh would be up at least 10 points by the half.

Alas, it was not to be, and the game turned into a real nail-biter as neither team could get any offense going, in part due to the miserable conditions of the playing field, in part because Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin seems to have caught the fucking “play conservative” bug and refused to open up the passing game even though every fucking time Pittsburgh had a third and short, they got stuffed on another fucking failed draw play.

See what I mean? Just thinking about it gets me all exercised and reminds me how much I hate football.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Tonight, on Monday Night Football, the Steelers play the team Myron Cope always referred to as “the Fish.” Vegas has Pittsburgh as 16 point favorites. Given that it’s a home game, that Miami is 0-10, and that Roethlisberger and Company are likely itching to atone for last week’s loss to the Jucking Fets, the spread seems reasonable. But with Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu out, I’m not sure the Black and Gold will sustain for a full sixty minutes, so I’m not taking that bet.

On the other hand, the first half line has the Steelers -9.5; I’m predicting Pittsburgh will score at least two touchdowns before halftime and I’d be surprised if the Dolphins can put the ball in the endzone, so I did put ten bucks down at on that one. In a way, this is a worse bet than the full game; after all, assuming I win the first half wager, all it would take would be another touchdown and the 16 points would be covered. I don’t know, though, something just tells me a second half letdown is possible—look how close the Eagles played the Patriots last night, and they were 24 point underdogs.

I’ve been enjoying my few small bets each weekend on pro football. Yesterday, I pulled off a three team parlay with Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago; even though I lucked out on the Bears game with Denver’s late collapse, I was still kicking myself for not getting some action on Philadelphia, which seemed certain to do well (though not as well as they did) against an overconfident New England.

Sports betting is undoubtedly one of the stupidest forms of wagering; even less than casino gambling, the outcome is out of your hands. But I think that’s what I like about it: you just cast your fate to the winds. (Except, of course, when the Steelers are playing; then, by housecleaning, you can positively affect the result.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tall Bike Love

I’ve been riding the tall bike farther and farther afield; today, I took it all the way to 2020 Cycle, a distance of about a mile and a half. It’s not so much how far you go—although it’s not a bike I’d take on a century—it’s more about how many people you pass and how much traffic you confront, because almost everyone who sees it does a double-take and people in cars can’t help turning their heads from the road. I even caused a guy to stall his Toyota as he popped the clutch at a light when he swiveled around to catch me roll by; the thing is, though, he wasn’t, as far as I could tell, the least bit annoyed by what happened; like nearly everyone who spies the Deathtrap II, he smiled and laughed and cracked up at the sheer audacious absurdity of it all.

Of course, I do experience that mixture of “hey watch me, watch me” and “what the hell are you looking at?” that Jen said you get from people at Burning Man; I love the attention the tall bike garners, but it’s also sort of weird to be stared at. Still, most of the eyeballing is with admiration, or at least, bemusement, so, in general, I appreciate it.

I think what I like best is that folks who typically wouldn’t give a second glance at a bike—baggy pants teenagers, an old lady pushing a shopping car, some guy in a convertible Mercedes—are among those who seem most entranced when the Deathtrap II passes by. I’d like to think that I’m planting a little seed of bike love their minds; who knows but that it won’t blossom, maybe when the weather warms up next spring.

I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the mounting and dismounting; a couple times people walking by asked me to show them how you get on and off the bike; so far, I haven’t fallen when demonstrating.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Until yesterday, I never understood the term “Black Friday” to describe the day after Thanksgiving shopping day; it seemed weird to associate the number one retail hell occasion with the traditional term for stock market crash of 1929. But my friend, David Latourell, pointed out that the “black” is for “in the black;” today’s the day when retailers will or won’t get out of the red for the entire holiday season.

But then, I’ve never understood the impulse to go out and shop today, either. Why in the world would anyone want to drive to a shopping mall—especially at 4:00 in the morning when it first opens—just to fight massive crowds of people all vying for a cheaper price on a computerized “Tickle Me Elmo” doll or a toaster oven that you can slip your iPod into so your bagels are browned in time to the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black?”

I guess I can see why—if you’ve got your whole family cooped up in the house trying to digest yesterday’s big meal—you’d want to get out and do something, but why shop? Wouldn’t it be safer to take the crew to a movie or something, especially one next to a bar so dad could have the shot of whiskey he needs to make it through the latest offering from Disney?

I’m hoping to get Mimi up and out to go on today’s “Hot Stuff Cargo Bike Ride.” We can hook the trailer up to the tandem and drag along a cooler of beer and soda or maybe our little Weber gas grill to cook up some gardenburgers and fake bacon. (Unfortunately, though, at this point, neither of us can bear the thought of eating anything in the wake of yesterday’s over-the-top feasting, so maybe we’ll just put some Brioschi in a bike bag and roll that way.)

In any case, we’re steering clear of all shopping malls; when it comes to Black Friday, I’m totally yellow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lumpy Old Sod

Sometimes in the summer, when I’m riding my bike in shirtsleeves, I imagine I’m a bike messenger. On the singlespeed Quickbeam, with jeans cuffed into knickers on the rare occasion when I leave the house without my helmet, I can pretend I’m a youngster, racing around and through traffic fearlessly, rocking my bike back and forth as I climb one hill after another hardly breaking a sweat.

In these dark and chilly fall days, however, with three layers of wool—undershirt, Pendleton, and vest and armwarmers—underneath my plastic shell, with two layers of hat, one for my head and one for the helmet, I see myself as an old guy who just happens to get around on a bike. The Saluki grounds me to earth; I’m like Zorba on a mule, relentless, determined; I’ll get where I’m going as long as I keep pedaling no matter how long it takes.

The phrase that kept going through my head on the ride home tonight was “lumpy old sod.” Here I am, this sort of screwy gray-haired gent still getting around on a two-wheeler; I’m not trying to be cool—that would be futile—I’m just doing what I do, even if it isn’t (and even if it is) stylish in any sense of the word.

This made me also think about the tenor of relations between bikes and cars, which these days, seems to be getting (at least in Seattle) a little bit uglier. If I were a younger man, hurrying to get where I was going, I would be apt to see cars as something of the enemy on the streets. As a lumpy old sod, though, just poking along, I’m inclined to view cars as simply big babies who have to be given their way or else they’ll start crying and leaking oil and blowing their radiators all over the place.

In the words of Homer Simpson, another lumpy old sod, “Let the baby have its bottle.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ammo Day

I didn’t make it to the gun store yesterday to buy my hundred rounds of ammunition in celebration of National Ammo Day, the new holiday designated to commemorate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It wouldn’t have made much difference, anyway, given that I have no guns into which I could have inserted said ammo, but I do have an appalled appreciation for the chutzpah of the inventors of the event, and think it’s a precedent we ought to follow in the creation of more occasions to raise awareness for the other nine items in our country’s hallowed Bill of Rights.

How about, for instance, a day on which we all visit 10 places of worship to cheer on the First Amendment? Or even better, assuming that both indigenous Native American spiritual traditions and whacko 20th century hippie cults count as religions, too, everyone could eat 10 peyote buttons or take like 100 micrograms of LSD and not just reflect upon God, but could see Him, too.

I’m not sure what would be the appropriate way to cheer on the 4th Amendment, the one protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Maybe we could buy 10 locks and put them on our doors or write 10 letters to congresspeople against the Patriot Act.

Amendment VI is the one guaranteeing the right to a speedy trial; maybe the government could release 100 of the prisoners currently serving at Guantanomo.

And I’m thinking, why stop at just the original 10 Amendments.

Amendment 13, which abolished slavery, could be commemorated by letting high school students out of school for the day.

And Amendment 19, which gave women the right to vote, might be appropriately cheered on by kicking out of office 100 “old-boy’s network” cronies installed by the current misogynistic Presidential administration.

But of course, best of all to celebrate would be Amendment 21, which repealed Prohibition; I’m thinking a glass of 100-proof bourbon would be just right.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Knew It

I had a premonition last night that the Steelers would tank against the Jets today and I was right.

Walking the dog around the block about 11:00, it occurred to me that the boys in Black and Gold were going to psyched out by the bright lights of the big city and would end up falling this afternoon to what seemed, at least on paper, a far inferior team.

Probably they all stayed out too late—especially the offensive line—and didn’t show up as ready to play at they should have. Let this be a wake-up call; if Pittsburgh hopes to win their division and go anywhere in the playoffs, they’d better get serious throughout the rest of the season. Just because they started seven and two doesn’t mean they’ll keep up that pace through their final seven games. (Even George Bush had a few moments early in his presidency when it seemed like he might not be so awful, but look how that’s played out.)

I don’t think I can take the blame for today’s failure; I did all my chores and even pulled out the vacuum cleaner after Pittsburgh fell behind 10-0 in the second quarter. Maybe I should have mopped the floor at that point, but generally, I save those big guns for more important games; so maybe I’m guilty, too, of not taking the Jets as seriously as I should have.

In any case, it’s no time to panic; the Steelers are still in the driver’s seat as far as winning their division; and I would have given my eye tooth (whatever that is) to have them be 7-3 after 10 games last year. Still, it’s disconcerting to play so poorly—especially at the end of the game—against a team that’s best known for folding in the fourth quarter.

I take solace in predicting this, but I sorta wish the Steelers were in NHL; then, at least they’d get a point for losing in overtime.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Deathtrap II

Last summer, Mimi and I spent a couple days building a tall bike, which we held together with zip-ties and dubbed, appropriately enough, Deathtrap. I rode it a couple times around our alley and it certainly lived up to its name, leaning towards the ground at a precarious angle and dropping its chain anytime I mashed the pedals with any force whatsoever.

Nevertheless, I totally caught the tall bike bug and have been fantasizing about building a reasonably rideable one ever since.

So today, the kid and I went down to Haulin’ Colin’s shop in Georgetown and put together two salvaged mountain bike frames, one I found in an alley behind the post office last August and the other from a pile of bikes down the street a couple months ago. Colin welded them nice and tight and even added a brace between the two, so I think the frame’s going to be pretty stiff, at least enough that, unlike with the Deathtrap, the chainline doesn’t flex when you pedal.

So, now I’ve got my work cut out to build it up, but that should be relatively straightforward. I was thinking about doing it the fancy way, with cranksets on both bikes and a chain running between them so I could shift gears, but I think, upon reflection, that I’m just going to make it a single speed.

It’s not like I’m going to be doing a lot of climbing anyway.

One of the desiderata for the tall bike project has always been to do it as cheaply as possible—you’ve got to save your money for band-aids and splints, if not orthopedic surgery.

We’ve already dubbed the new bike, Deathtrap II, and while I’m pretty sure while it won’t be nearly as dangerous as its predecessor, you can bet that it will provide plenty of thrills (if not spills) as soon as it’s put together.

I just hope I’m still in one piece after riding it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Epic Light

Epic doesn’t have to be epic and if conditions are right (that is, wrong), a relatively mundane ride can embody all the spirit of adventure usually reserved for far more ambitious routes.

You have to really like bike riding (or at least beer) or just be unwilling to miss an opportunity to see Specialist Sean get shit-faced drunk one more time before his hush-hush military duties take him away to consider it a fun way of spending an evening to gather in the steady rain after dark for a sodden ride through flooded streets in the first real Pineapple Express of the season.

But about twenty hardy souls did and we set out from Westlake Center and then down the slippery cobblestones of Pike Market past the gum wall with nary a crash but gales of laughter at the brash stupidity of it all.

And pretty soon, we were approaching the West Seattle Bridge, soaked, but apparently not wet enough until standing around grumbling through what seemed like the longest flat fix in history but maybe it was just the feeling of feeling too stupid to come in out of the rain.

All was forgiven, though, by the time we had raced through Alki to the Celtic Swell (pronounced “Swill”) and were quaffing stout, stealing fries from Derrick’s plate, and regaling dry patrons with tales of our hard-core, let-no-weather-stop-us velocitude.

And best of all, just when you’d think that any sensible person would call it a night and head home to get out of his wet clothes and into a dry martini, the Pugsley Pod pelaton pedaled to the Boxcar in Magnolia where Specialist could end his riding for the evening curled around a pint glass and I could fulfill my fantasy of singing “Carry On My Wayward Sun” in public.

And if that weren’t epic enough, I even managed to be sufficiently distracted by the time I left to leave my debit card at the bar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Writer's Strike

I hear the television writers are on strike; the joke, of course, has to be something like, “Who can tell?”

It’s not like “King of Queens” or “Cavemen” are Shakespeare, right? And the monkeys who pen the intros for reality shows probably don’t even need an infinite number of typewriters much less an infinite amount of time, do they?

Natch, this is likely sour grapes on my part; I was, for a couple of years in my youth, an aspiring TV writer myself; had I gotten just a bit luckier or if I had a shade more perseverance, I might be walking the picket line next to Tina Fey, herself, right now.

I still have, in a trunk, a dozen or so sitcom scripts I wrote on spec—meaning for free, in hopes of “breaking in” to the biz. And I’ve even got a nice collection of rejection letters that go with them, my favorite being one from that television classic, “The Facts of Life,” the vehicle which propelled none other than George Clooney to fame.

There was a whole ritual involved in finishing and submitting a script back in those days. I’d get two copies made at this place called “Copy and Print” on Sunset Boulevard; (they’d do it behind the counter; this was before the advent of Kinko’s); then I’d take one copy over to the Writer’s Guild building in Beverly Hills and pay something like five bucks to register it, thereby protecting me should some Hollywood shark steal my brilliant idea.

The other copy I would hand-deliver to the studio who produced the show I was spec-ing for. I’d wait a couple weeks before making a phone call and then a couple more before the rejection note would show up if at all.

During that time, I’d try my hand at another show, maybe “The Jeffersons” or “Laverne and Shirley.” It wasn’t exactly like being on strike, but like today’s writers, I wasn’t getting paid, either.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Album Covers

I’ve only sung karaoke a couple times in my life, but I do sometimes research what songs I might sing should the occasion again present itself.

So, last night, I was watching a Youtube video of the mid-70’s prog-rock group Kansas performing their classic “Carry On My Wayward Son” (you can laugh, but their 1976 concert at the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon was a highlight of that time in my life) and that led me to Wikipedia-ing them and eventually on a little trip down memory lane through other bands of their classically-inspired and arguably pretentious ilk I hadn’t thought of for a while--Camel, Curved Air, Marillion, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow, Van der Graaf Generator—and then into an examination of what Wikipedia had to say about my teenage years’ Big Three: Jethro Tull, Yes, and King Crimson; and it was while poking through their online discographies, and in particular, looking at the cover of the Yes album, “Fragile,” when it occurred to me that given the way music is now delivered to the masses, a key feature of my experience of those bands and albums is no longer typical for fans today.

I’m talking about sitting in your room listening to your brand-new (or well-worn) record while poring over the album cover, reading the liner notes or, in the case of lots of those prog-rock bands, all sorts of artwork, photographs, and oddball writings, exercising your skills in hermeneutics as you tried to find meaning in and make meaning of all the stuff before you.

I’m pretty sure that’s where I got hooked on examining texts and why I ended up becoming an academic, for better or worse.

I can’t imagine how many hours I stared at the Roger Dean paintings on the cover and in the promo booklet (probably fewer than I did looking at the images on King Crimson’s “Lizard,”); but apparently it trained me well for a close-reading of Plato, anyway.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Power of the Vacuum

The Steelers were down 21-6 to the hated Brownies in the second quarter of today’s game and having done zilch on offense while letting Cleveland convert something like 5 third down plays in a row, looked like they were going to fall to a divisional rival they surely should have been able to beat; at that point, drastic measures were called for.

So, I fired up the Sanitaire and began vacuuming furiously, doing corners with the edger attachment and even running the carpet beater over furniture and mattresses. Within moments, (well, more like thirty minutes and quarter and a half of football) Pittsburgh was up by four and Cleveland was reverting to form as the team my boys in Black and Gold have owned fifteen out of the last sixteen times they’ve played.

So, I began folding the machine to put it away; it was right then, though, that Cleveland return specialist Joshua Gibbs, who had already had a 90 yard kickoff runback, scooped up his muffed ball and ran it back 100 yards to put the Mistakes by the Lake ahead again.

Dutifully, I then dragged the vacuum cleaner down to the basement and worked over the carpets in my office area; in short order, the Steelers had scored again to go up by three with about two minutes left.

Feeling confident, I folded the machine up again at which point Gibbs returned a punt on the Browns final possession to the Pittsburgh 39, making a game-tying field goal immanent. Fortunately, all it took was to unwrap and plug in its power cord in preparation for use to have the Browns called for a holding penalty, setting them back to their own 33.

Just to be sure, I left the plug in the outlet for the last few seconds of the game, which ensured the Brown’s desperation field goal would fail, which it did, spilling sighs of relief all over our home’s nice clean floors.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Open Hows?

You think by the time you’ve gotten your kid out of diapers, or at least through learning cursive, your job is mostly done. Maybe you’ve got to bail the youngster out of jail a few times during their teen years, but the heavy lifting is basically out of way.


With our spawn now on the cusp of Middle School, we, as 20th century parents of a 21st century child, get to enjoy the unbridled pleasure of attending open houses for institutions of learning grades 6 through 12. These are events not to be missed, unless you’ve got something way better to do like washing your hair or fixing macaroni and cheese right out of the box.

The evenings unfold according to a script as carved in stone as the original Decalogue, or at least as unwavering as an episode of Bewitched. First, you’ve got the uplifting presentation—often via something as exciting as a student-produced video or Powerpoint slide show—in which the mission, vision, and values of the school are rendered in multimedia splendor. Next, the head of the school gives a soporific speech designed to make the tours of classrooms that then follow seem incredibly exciting.

You mill around for a couple of hours with earnest-looking parents and bored looking kids, all the while making nice in spite of knowing that if you do choose this school, it won’t all be so nice, especially when tuition bills come due.

Of course, I want nothing but the best education possible for my child, so I’ll go anywhere, do anything, and spend whatever it takes to ensure that she learns all of life’s most important lessons in order to succeed at the highest level possible in the competitive global marketplace of the new millennium.

But you know, when I think about it, perhaps the most important lesson she can learn is how to deal with disappointment. And that what happens in middle school stays in middle school.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Great Green Hope

As is typical of overeducated types like who share certain political, social, and religious views, I’m something of a cynic. I tend to think it’s uncool to be overly passionate about anything and usually affect something of an ironic detachment towards issues and causes that might draw others in. So, it’s always a bit of a surprise when I see someone speak or take in a performance that touches me in a completely unalloyed way; it’s unusual to not be one step removed from my own feelings, and although it would probably be tedious to be one of those terminally earnest types you see at political rallies and the like, it’s sort of refreshing as a change of pace.

All this because tonight I heard a lecture by this guy, Van Jones, from the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, CA, talk about what he calls “green collar jobs” and how the promise of meeting the challenge of global climate change has prospects for creating a society that is more just, equitable, and inclusive.

What really got me was his statement of the three principles that can motivate this movement to change the way we live and work: equal protection, equal opportunity, and equal participation. The first is about committing to an economy that protects the least well-off and ensures that disastrous responses to disasters like Hurricane Katrina are not repeated. The second is about making sure we don’t allow “eco-apartheid” to happen, where all the benefits of the green economy are enjoyed only by white folks. And the third refers to drawing upon our collective wisdom in developing solutions, not just listening to what self-designated experts have to say.

I had to pay Mimi a few bucks to hold out for the entire talk, but she did, and I came out wanting to do whatever I can to help realize the vision of a green wave that lifts all boats—and I’m hardly cynical about that at all.

Monday, November 05, 2007

STFU Already

I admit it: there’s no more hackneyed rant imaginable and not a single dead horse more beaten than this one; however, my defense is that the very behavior against which I’m inveighing is equally clichéd, and so—in the hope that two wrongs may cancel each other out—I’m launching this diatribe, fully aware that the point’s already been made ad nauseum but still convinced one more polemic, to wit, this one, is in order.

I rail against, of course, loudmouthed cell phone users in public spaces, especially public transit. It continues to amaze and astound me how often I’m subjected to some pitiful fool on his or her mobile telephone yakking away loud enough for anyone in the general vicinity to eavesdrop on the usually banal, but often rather private details of the life he or she is unfortunate enough to be living.

In the past week, for instance, as I’ve ridden either buses in Seattle or the BART train in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve had to put up with: a young woman going into great detail about how unqualified her supervisor at Starbucks is; a 20-something boy trying for 15 minutes to cadge money from his mom; a single mother complaining about her loser boyfriend who never plays with her daughter; some wannabe hip-hop dude bragging about his plans for a wild weekend in the City; a businessman chewing out his secretary for not passing on some message to him; and a teenage girl who I couldn’t really understand, but who used the word “like” at least twice in every sentence.

Now, of course, I should hardly talk about lack of decorum when it comes to sharing the minutia of one’s life with the world; but the difference is that readers of this blog choose to subject themselves to it, whereas when I’m being bombarded by cell phone conversations, I’ve got no say in the matter.

Plus, unlike those chatterboxes, I stop at 327 words.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bacon and Celery Ride

It’s too bad we can’t turn the clocks back an hour every morning—or at least every Sunday morning—because, if we could, we’d all be more likely to meet up before 8:00 in the morning, have our coffee and donuts, and then ride bikes to a public park where we could cook bacon—real and imaginary—and drink Bloody Marys, thereby getting in our minimum daily requirement of alcohol, grease, and celery in one fell swoop before Sunday Mass even starts.

No doubt I could have found something more productive to do with my extra hour, and probably something, all things considered, better for my long-term health, but I sure liked being able “fall back” into a serving of the classic spicy eye-opener which nicely took the edge off of the minor hangover I was nursing after attending a post-Halloween costume party into what would have been the wee hours of the morning had we not gotten that free one in the middle of the night last night.

I was impressed to see how many of the usual suspects showed up at such and early hour with little more than the promise of pork products and tomato juice cocktails as incentive. And while there was a modicum of snarling and groaning, especially before folks had their caffeine and in some cases, nicotine, too, once we had pedaled across the I-90 bridge to unload and spread out at Waffle Park on Mercer Island, and as soon the libations began flowing and the fat began bubbling, even the snarliest and groniest among us were giddy with that particularly satisfying brand of sanctimoniousness that comes with getting up and out of bed at an early hour.

Perhaps my favorite part of the proceedings was looking at my watch as I finished my drink and noting that it was only 9:45; at that point, it was time for me to go; if I'm tipsy before 10:00 on Sunday, I'm ambitious; after 10:00, I'm debauched.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bryce Lewis Memorial Ride

I joined about fifty other cyclists this afternoon on a bike ride to remember Bryce Lewis, the 19-year old kid who was killed in September by a right-turning dump truck at an intersection just south of the University Bridge.

It was a somber—but not overly solemn—procession that wended its way from Cal Anderson Park down Broadway on Capital Hill, then up to Volunteer Park, before cruising down Tenth Street to the site of the accident. There, we gathered at the makeshift memorial, which featured a number of pieces of Bryce’s artwork, for a few heartfelt words from his stepfather, who brought tears to all our eyes as he recalled his stepson and the promise of Bryce’s young life cut short way too soon.

The weather was ideal, partly sunny and mild, with a tailwind all the way, as if the gods themselves were blessing our remembrance, too. We rode fairly slowly, taking up the entire road and corking intersections as needed to keep the group together, but even in what seems to be an increasingly hostile environment between cyclists and drivers, no one yelled at us or really laid on their horns for blocking their way.

I was impressed with the organization of the event, pulled together by Foo, one of the guys who sometimes rides with .83 and it made me feel like my little bike gang is more than just a bunch of two-wheeled drunks (but that too); it’s almost like belonging to the Shriners or something, one of those fraternal organizations who along with a reasonable amount of alcohol abuse, also do good things in the world, like raising money to help crippled kids walk.

From the accident site, we rode across the University Bridge to the UW campus, where, I understand, Bryce and his friend Caleb were heading on that fateful day. We got to finish the ride that Bryce didn’t, but he was with all of us as we pedaled on.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Still the Best

I’ve written about Hunan Restaurant before, but I don’t care. Just as I never tire of dining there, I’m won’t ever tire of writing about it. It remains one of my two favorite places to eat out anywhere—the other being Tomasita’s in Santa Fe—and just as I don’t mind continually subjecting friends and acquaintances to the food at Henry Chung’s place, it doesn’t bother me to subject the two or three people who regularly read this blog to another paean to what I still believe is the best Chinese restaurant in the world.

I had a day-long meeting today at my publisher, Berrett-Koehler, at which my co-author, Richard Leider, and I made a presentation about and listened to marketing strategies for our forthcoming book, Something to Live For: Finding Your Way in the Second Half of Life and it all went quite well. But about 5:15, as our confab was winding down, and I began believing I might be able to make it to Hunan while still catching my flight from Oakland this evening, I began to get distracted with what I was hearing and saying, calculating the timeline I’d have to meet to fit a plate of Hot and Sour Vegetables into my schedule.

I tried not to appear too eager as we wrapped things up and I began jogging through San Francisco’s financial district to my gastronomic mecca. And although I probably rushed my goodbyes to both the B-K staff and my dear friend, Richard, it was worth it as I sat down before a steaming dish of spicy carrots and cabbage at 5 minutes to 6:00.

Although this gave me just 20 minutes to savor my meal, I was hardly able to stretch it out that long, devouring the delicious endorphin-producing meal in less than a quarter of an hour.

Now, though, waiting for my plane at the Oakland airport, I have the distinct pleasure of retasting the meal with every little belch.