Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I like to fancy myself a devil-may-care rebel who’s willing to throw caution to the wind and act out like a madman whenever the opportunity presents itself; you never know what to expect from me; one minute I’m feeding the dog and vacuuming the floor, the next, I’ve knocked back half a bottle of bourbon and am spray-painting graffiti all over my neighbor’s SUV, but really, it’s not like that all: I’m a pretty good boy.

Sure, I get lazy from time to time and sometimes even go two days in a row without shaving, but by and large, I can’t help myself when it comes to doing what I think I ought to; try as I might to be Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I usually end up a lot more like Andy Griffith in Mayberry RFD.

I’m a dutiful husband and father, pay my bills on time, and make every effort to turn back student papers as soon as possible, even if it means I spend most of Saturday and Sunday standing at my computer grading their essays.

In this day and age of celebrity train wrecks, my inability to end up in the gutter and then in rehab strikes me as out of step with the times; I really ought to be far less conscientious and much more of a burden to those who care about me and indeed, anyone who depends on me even slightly for this or that little thing.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m like this; no doubt it’s at least in part a function of my upbringing; I had a father who worked at least a little bit seven days a week for as long as I can recall and a mom who never ever stopped doing what she did whatever it was whenever it was.

Whether this will be passed on to my daughter, I can’t say, but I’m working on it. Constantly.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day II

I must be really getting old: my first reaction to finding out that school’s been cancelled today due to inclement weather was, “Oh, man, how am I going to cover all the material in class if we miss another day?”

That lasted all of about five seconds, though, as I am now enjoying a fresh mug of hot coffee at Zeitgeist in Pioneer Square as I watch people scurry by on their ways to jobs that haven’t been shut down by our little snowstorm late last night.

It’s surprising, given how clear the streets are downtown that school’s been cancelled; on the other hand, it was relatively treacherous getting out of my own neighborhood. Coming down Yesler from 30th towards Martin Luther King Blvd., I tried unsuccessfully to navigate what was essentially an ice rink over the asphalt; my front wheel slid out from under me and I ended up on my back with the bike on top of me. No real harm, though, as I’m wearing plenty of layers and sliding on icy streets protects a person from road rash.

So now, I’ve essentially got a free day to do more or less whatever I want—but as I said, given the old fogey I’ve become, no doubt a good deal of that will involve prepping for my upcoming classes later this week.

One down side is that most of the materials I need for the UW Philosophy for Children class are out at Cascadia; some improvisation is going to be in order there. On the other hand, I’ve been complaining to myself that I sometimes feel these days like a Greatest Hits Reunion Tour Oldies Show in the classroom, trotting out the same exercises I’ve done over and over for the last few years. So, maybe this will force me to come up with something new and interesting I haven’t tried.

Or maybe I’ll just have another cup of coffee, then switch to bourbon by noon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Caroline for President

I had a fantasy as a teenager—an idle fantasy, not a creepy one—that I would grow up to marry Caroline Kennedy.

And it wasn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility: my high school grades and college board scores could have earned me admission to an Ivy League school; we might have met at a pep rally or who knows, law school, and if my background checks came out okay, we might have been able to date, and given that my career, had I stayed in the multimedia computer world, could possibly have gone in a direction not dissimilar to the one her actual husband, Edwin Schlossberg’s has, why not? Anything could have happened.

Of course, I have no regrets whatsoever about the way things turned out, but I have long retained something of my youthful admiration for the former President’s daughter; she has always, it’s seemed to me, conducted herself in the public eye with a great deal of class and dignity and given the series of tragedies and losses in her life, a kind of quiet heroism we rarely see in this day of talk-show tell-alls.

So, maybe I’m just a sucker for the girl, but be that as it may, her editorial in today’s NY Times in which she endorses Barak Obama, literally brought tears to my eyes. The sentiment she expresses, and perhaps more importantly, the thoughtful and measured way she does so, got inside of me that way no other appeal this endless election season has so far.

Heck, even Larry seemed moved by the piece.

Here she captures the difference between Hilary and Obama; “Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things.”

And since the writer of that line—who herself has that ability—isn’t running, I’m going with the Senator from Illinois.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

January Greenlake Race

I like few things better than a midnight bike ride and race. There’s something absolutely delightful about carrying on your evening (read drinking and carousing with friends) until about 11:00PM, then excusing yourself to go ride crosstown eight or so miles where you get to meet up with a gang of like-minded (or at least similarly toasted) cyclists for a race around a public pond, especially when it’s clear and cold and ice patches on the course make for a particularly thrilling competition.

So it was with authentic delight that I showed up last night (along with my friend, Andrew) at the first midnight Greenlake Race of the year, on a sub-freezing evening where a waning gibbous moon hung in a frosty haze over the not-so-solemn proceedings. About fifteen relatively hardy souls (I say “relatively” because there was a fair degree of pissing and moaning about the temperature) were already there waiting for the flag to drop on this, the initial 2008 running of the monthly event.

If, of course, had no illusions about competing for the win, especially upon seeing that the magical Daniel Featherhead would be riding. His battered green Schwinn cruiser, a bike most of us would be lucky to merely complete the 2.9 mile oval on, would be (and was) plenty to carry him to victory—as, no surprise to anyone, it did.

My triumph was in hanging in sight of the lead group for longer than I ever have before—probably a third of the way. After that, I contented myself with the belief that, at least, I wasn’t in last place, a misapprehension of was disabused of upon finally DFL and winning a 1.5 liter-sized bottle of Jimi Hendrix “Electric” vodka!

Friend Andrew was showing signs of hypothermia (or at least acting like he was) so we didn’t stick around for the post-race festivities; I did, though, get another late-night crosstown ride home, warmed by a slug of Electric Jimi.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Neither Bell Nor Voice

There is the occasional sign on the Burke-Gilman trail that says something like “Use bell or voice when passing.”

I don’t.

And I prefer that other people don’t either, at least when they’re passing me.

I understand the rationale for the admonition: you don’t want to be riding by someone when he or she suddenly swerves, knocking you over, breaking teeth, collarbones, and wrists. Better to give them a heads-up do you don’t both end up on the ground.

Inevitably, though, whenever someone calls “On your left” as they pass by me, I’m startled; if ever I’m going to be a menace to myself and a fellow rider, it’s right after they announce themselves unexpectedly. I’d much prefer they simply ease by and are gone before I ever notice.

Plus, I can’t help but feel something more than just a mere twinge of resentment when someone faster than me emphasizes their superior speed by using their voice. It’s like, “No shit, man. I heard your heavy breathing and the creaking of your carbon-fiber frame several hundred yards ago and I know that in your spandex outfit you totally ride like the wind, so shut up about it already and goodbye.”

If ever I were going to swerve just to give someone a hard time, this would be it.

Now, I’m not completely opposed to people letting others know that they are passing by, but I’m wary; a couple of months ago, there was this older lady walking her dog on the trail; I gave her a wide berth but didn’t ring my bell; she started yelling at me and I turned around to see what her trip was. She said she came from Holland where cyclists always rang their bells when passing pedestrians. I apologized and said in the future, I would try. Unfortunately, when I did so farther along the trail for the next walker, she stepped to the left, right straight into my path.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Eat Me Outta House and Home

Probably compared to many people—and almost certainly in comparison to most American males my age—I’m pretty active. I ride my bike all over the place, do yoga almost every morning, stand at my desk when I write, and pace pretty consistently whenever I’m in front of a classroom.

But from time to time—and this, generally is one of those—all I really want to do is sit around (and stand, usually over the sink) and eat. I feel endlessly hungry and can endlessly glut my maw in the vain attempt to fill up my piehole with one tasty vittle after another.

For instance, Monday, which was a holiday, I basically strolled around my house fixing myself one thing after another—some toast, a cheese sandwich, a helping of Yakisoba noodles, another cheese sandwich, a bowl of granola, couple of carrots, the dregs from a bag of chips, and so on and so on, prompting Jen, who couldn’t help but observe my relentless consumption, to allow that I was scaring her.

Heck, I was scaring myself, but that didn’t stop me. I just kept wandering about, sampling the many delights of our pantry, from some leftover rice to a crust of bread to a bit of Parmesan still on the rind, to a handful of walnuts in a bag on the shelf.

Now, granted, this was in part influenced by my decision to skip lunch and dinner the day before, dining only on a bud-butter oatmeal cookie that lasted me all afternoon and evening, but still, everything seemed tasty, even that container of yogurt that had been sitting in the back of the refrigerator since December.

Fortunately, not all the calories found their way to my belly, although plenty, I’m sure, and just waiting around my midsection to start building new wrinkles between my navel and sternum.

I’ll worry about that more as summer approaches; right now, though, I’m wearing three shirts and getting set to make a sandwich.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's In A Name

Apparently, economists and such other observers of the world financial markets are are now debating whether or not the US is currently in a recession. According to Wikipedia, the “official” definition of the term is when a country’s gross domestic product declines for two quarters in a row, but the National Bureau of Economic Research “defines a recession more ambiguously as ‘a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months.’” By that gauge, it would seem to me that we are in one and have been for a while. I mean Superintendent Chalmers on the Simpsons can say that he’s “balding” for only so long; at some point, the chrome dome means what it means, no “ing” permitted.

Honestly, I could care less whether the economy is officially in recession because any way you look at it, times are getting rougher for the average citizen, no matter what we call the thing that walks and quacks like a duck before us. Mostly, I think it’s funny or sad or maybe ingenuous for pundits and policy-makers to be debating semantics when the ship is already sinking: “Was that an iceberg we hit, Captain? Or just some ice?” Doesn’t really matter, does it, when the hull is breached and waters rushing wildly in?

The Bush administration’s proposed solution is to give people tax rebates of something like $500 to $1000 dollars. That I don’t get at all. Most people (myself included) will probably take the money and go buy some mass-produced gadget from China; how that helps the US economy is unclear to me.

Why not take the $150 billion dollars and invest it instead in some sort of public works projects—bridges, roads, libraries? That way, not only is our public infrastructure improved, but jobs are created, as well. Perhaps, though, the concern is that since many of those jobs would go to undocumented workers, this wouldn’t stimulate the US economy, either.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Schwinn Hollywood

A few months ago, my neighbor, Bobby, who lives down the alley a couple houses, dropped off in my backyard a rusty and broken-down green bike. People do this when they know you are into bicycles; it’s a regular occurrence in my life that someone tries to palm of their unwanted two-wheelers on me. Usually I happily take the offering, fix it up a bit, ride it for a while, and then donate it to BikeWorks when the novelty wears off.

But in this case, I was sorta annoyed. The bike, a 24-inch tire girl’s model, was utterly trashed. Coated in rust and mud, with wheels that were completely unsalvageable, it looked like a candidate for the dump rather than one that might be a viable restoration project. Plus, I had loaned Bobby some money and didn’t like the idea that he might think he was partially paying me back with this “gift.”

Nevertheless, I brought it down in the basement and put it up on the stand. And after it sat there a few days, and after I removed the offending wheels, I couldn’t help falling for the bike’s charms. The frame is just choice: curvy and swoopy, and the fat chrome fenders, cleaned up with rubbing compound, shine beautifully.

I was able to rebuild the headset and repack the one-piece crank’s bearings; once steering and pedaling were revived, the bike was reborn.

I bought a used front wheel and a brand-new rear with built-in coaster brake. Big fat whitewall tires complete the period-specific look.

Yesterday, I finished fitting a new chain and today, with a few odds and ends—axle bolts and rubberized pedals—it’s once again a bike.

It has kind of a bad-ass tough girl feel about it. The handlebars remind me of the shoulders of a girl who wears blue eye shadow.

And you can just feel how grateful it is to be back; rescued from the trash, ready to roll.

Friday, January 18, 2008



I probably wouldn’t be a very good forensic detective or scientific researcher; I’m too impatient to conduct controlled experiments that change just one variable at a time in order to isolate the single cause of this or that effect. Rather, I’m inclined to try a number of things all at once, a strategy my dear departed friend John Sargent used to call “throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

So, yesterday, completely frustrated by the incessant clicking sound emanating from the Saluki, and exhausted from lying abed the night before planning out various strategies for dealing with it, from stripping off all the components and having the frame repainted, to putting the damn thing on Craigslist for sale, I took two final stabs at rectifying the situation.

First, I loosened the front derailer clamp and liberally sprayed WD40 down inside it against the seattube. Then, I swapped pedals with the X0-1, replacing the MKS Touring models with the MKS Touring Lites.

Both of these were last-ditch, fairly hopeless efforts, but I had to try something.

Yesterday, riding out to Bothell, I almost went mad with the Chinese water torture meets the Telltale Heart experience of that sound over and over again with every turn of the crank so much so that at least twice, I got off my bike growling and near tears—“Oh why, oh why, where is it coming from?”—even kicking the chainstays in the vain hope that maybe a frenzied plea combined with penitentiary discipline was all that was needed.

So, it was without any real expectation of success that I brought my bike back up from the basement after administering to it and set out for a little test ride last evening, but I’ll be damned if the different pedals—or maybe the lubed-up derailer clamp—didn’t result in the result I dared not even hope for: silent pedaling interrupted only by a whoop of joy.

For now, anway.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can't Figure It Out

For as long as I can remember (which isn’t always all that long), I’ve been intermittently getting this light clicking sound on the Saluki when the left crankarm hits about seven o’clock on my pedal stroke; it comes and goes over time and even sometimes during the course of a ride. I’ve tried everything to make it go away—replacing the bottom bracket, swapping out the crankset, taking off the pedals, dripping Phil Penetrating Oil into them and screwing each back on, putting on a new chain, removing and greasing the seatpost and handlebar stem, squeezing the spokes, tightening every nut and bolt I can find, checking the frame for cracks, pissing and moaning, swearing and throwing things, trying to ignore it—but all to no avail; it still keeps coming back.

Today I thought I had it figured out; it seemed like the metal tab that holds my rear pannier to the rack was rubbing against the metal tubing; I slid it slightly backwards and the ticking stopped; I congratulated myself on my mechanical aptitude and laughed inwardly at what a simple solution it turned out to be. For a few miles, no sound emanated from my ride; eureka!

Pretty soon, though, the ticking returned, and my hypothesis (and my self-esteem as a mechanic) was shattered once more; the noise came and went during the last few blocks, and once again, I brought the bike down into the basement, thinking maybe this time I could finally diagnose what’s going wrong.

A couple weeks ago, during a cold snap, I conjectured that the cause of the noise had something to do with the temperature; it seemed like the colder it was, the worse it got, but then it warmed up and didn’t go away.

So now, I’m completely confounded; I don’t know what causes the noise; I don’t know what makes it goes away; and I really don’t know how much longer I can stand it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bike 1, Bus 0

It snowed hard for about twenty minutes last night and Seattle awoke to icy streets and crunchy sidewalks. I left for the UW at about 7:30, expecting to arrive, as usual, a bit before 8:00.

Half a block of gritting my teeth and playing foot-down on the ball-bearing slippery road convinced me that discretion was the better part of valor and I should catch the bus instead.


I waited twenty minutes until the 48 showed up, fifteen minutes after it was scheduled to arrive; unfortunately, , it already had two bikes loaded on it. The driver assured me however, that the next one was “right behind.”

Another 20 minutes passed—I was now only 10 minutes away from being late to class—and two busses, back-to-back arrived. I loaded my bike onto the second one, there being more seats available, and sat down hoping that this could be the fastest trip every to Montlake, thereby enabling me to arrive just as my class began wondering where their teacher was.


By 8:30, we’d gone a total of five blocks and the line of cars stretching in front of us down 23rd Avenue appeared endless. I’d already borrowed a cell phone from a perfect stranger—(see? Who needs one?)—to inform the Department I wouldn’t be in until 9:00 at the earliest, but it was starting to look like that was overly optimistic, so I decided perhaps discretion was overrated and hopped off the bus and grabbed my bike.

In fact, it was only slightly terrifying rolling down the rutted and chipped frozen sleet on the steep sidewalk of 23rd street and well worth it as I made it to the Montlake Bridge not only long before the bus I was on but far ahead of both the ones that had passed mine earlier.

I got to class late, but in one piece, students still waiting patiently, my only regret that I hadn’t stayed on two wheels in the first place.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cold Comfort

The weather was pretty miserable on the ride home tonight: just above freezing, with a steady, sleety rain; it was dark already by the time I left school; my glasses got all spotty and foggy so I couldn’t see very well and my gloves were so waterlogged that for the last third of the way or so, my hands were wet and freezing, boo-hoo, bicycling commuting is haaard!

I was offered a ride in a car before I left and I’m not sure why I didn’t take it. Stubbornness is part of it, I think, and so is being able to maintain my insufferable holier-that-thou attitude when it comes to getting back and forth from school to home. Instead of fighting the elements—well, just two, really, air and water (earth and fire didn’t give me any problems)—I could have been sitting back in a dry passenger seat and all warm and cozy in relative comfort.

But that made me wonder what “comfort” is anyway. And why is it more comfortable to be reclining on leather seats in a climate-controlled metal box than perching on a leather saddle, pumping your legs, breathing in great gulps of wintery weather, while feeling the bracing sting of tiny sleetballs dot your cheeks and chin?

It was Thoreau, I think, who said something like “life is sweeter closer to the bone,” by which I take it he meant that we lose something valuable when insulate ourselves too much from the world of real experience. And although I like a big comfy bed with lots of pillows and a handy remote for satellite video as much as the next person, I do see his point. Some of the best times I’ve had are when I’ve had the least (or, at least, not too much): a bike, a destination of sorts, a little bit to eat and drink, and in a case like today’s commute, lots of wool, Gore-tex, and shoe covers, too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two Films, One Movie

With Jen and Mimi out of town, I’ve been on a little moviefest this weekend, seeing two highly-acclaimed films in theaters, The Orphanage and There Will Be Blood, and one box-office smash, Superbad on video at home. I must have really lowbrow tastes, because the first two, in spite of their great notices, left me rather cold, while the third, even though generally considered a bit throwaway teen entertainment, had me laughing out loud by myself in my living room.

The Orphanage is a Spanish ghost film that my friend told me was from the same folks who brought you the estimable Pan’s Labyrinth (although I guess it’s not the same director) and the only way I could make sense of it was as an excruciating and relentless metaphorical depiction of what it must be like to lose a child. As an underlying psychological foundation, that’s terrifying, but the film itself seemed just hokey, right down the whispering child poltergeist in the raggedy scarecrow head.

There Will Be Blood
had amazing imagery and a stellar acting job by Daniel Day-Lewis, but the story was as predictable as an episode of Bewitchedand some of the dialogue was so cheesy that even though it was supposed to be all heavy and laden with meaning, people in the theater, myself included, couldn’t help but crack up. I take it the story can be seen as an allegorical indictment of oil—everyone in the film eventually sells their soul for black gold and Day-Lewis’ character, Daniel Plainview—get it?—ends up driven mad by his hateful obsession, but I’m not sure I needed two plus hours of self-consciously important filmmaking to get that. And I still the meglomaniacal billionaire Citizen Kane-type is done best by Montgomery Burns on the Simpsons.

Superbad, though, was charming; I loved the characters, their relationships and the best line I’ve heard in film this year, “You don’t want girls to think you suck dick at fucking pussy.”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Closet Cleanup

I spent the early afternoon listening to football and cleaning out one of our clothes closets and the dreaded linen closet. Talk about fun!

Actually, I do take a real measure of satisfaction in throwing out and rearranging stuff so that in the former case you can now find and reach all the shoes that have been littering the floor and in the latter, you can conclude that—since you’re finally able to see all the packages of them that had been buried under empty Band-aid boxes—you probably won’t have to buy dental floss for a couple years at least.

It’s amazing too me how stuff piles up and accumulates, no matter what it seems you do. Jen and I each probably take a turn or two every few months with the linen closet; still, it consistently becomes the warehouse for half full prescription bottles, discarded tubes of hand cream, dozens of random throat lozenges, and a seemingly endless supply of the aforementioned complementary packages of dental floss give to us by our dentist.

It’s almost as bad as the refrigerator, which has the strange habit of multiplying single-serving containers of yogurt, or the freezer, which seems to be a breeding ground for half-opened bags of edamame.

Oddly, it’s not as if we’re a family that tends to make indiscriminate purchases of things we don’t need; still somehow, the odds and ends continue to multiply. A good half of the junk I tossed out today was like travel-sized versions of lotion and toothpaste leftover from hotel visits, or free samples given to us by stores or in a birthday goodie-bag. Somehow, it all ends up in the closet, “just in case” we ever need it, but we never do.

What’s scary is that I’m probably harboring just as much stuff in the closets of my mind and emotions, and while I might take on the linen closet twice annually, the stuff up there never gets touched.

Friday, January 11, 2008


After that run a few weeks ago where I picked 5 out of 6 against the spread, I had this fantasy that my new life’s calling was to be a sports betting tout. Somehow, the world would get wind of my prowess and people would start paying me exorbitant sums to offer my predictions on who would win what; I’d get invited to Vegas and the Superbowl to be a celebrity talking head and I’d become a modern-day Jimmy the Greek without ever having to win or lose a fortune of my own.

Since then, however, I’ve stumbled, losing 3 out of 4 on the final week of the season and only going 2 for 4 against the spread last week. (And one of those was the heartbreaking loss by Pittsburgh, don’t get me started on that again.)

This weekend, though, I’m feeling pretty confident about my betting picks. I’m going the straight underdog ticket: Chargers +8.5 against the Colts, Giants +7.5 against the Pokes, Jags +13.5 against the Pats, and Seattle +7.5 against the Pack. My reasoning is that all the bye week teams are going to be stale and, even if they win, will have a bit of trouble getting untracked. In fact, I’m so confident, I’m doing a 4 team parlay of the underdogs for the first half lines, which has San Diego +6, New York +4.5, Jacksonville +7.5, and the Seahawks +4.5. The surest bet, I think, is the Jagoffs keeping pace with the Cheatriots at least through two quarters.

Straight up, my predictions have all the home teams prevailing, although I think anything can happen in the NFC, especially in Dallas. I still don’t think Tony Romo is the real thing and if Owens is still hurt then the Cowboys could be going down.

I’d like to see the Seahawks win but, being old, I’m sort of a Favre fan, too, so won’t be too sad if my hometown team gets eliminated.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I like hanging around people who are related; when you’re in a situation where you have no choice but to stick with someone, your personality really comes out.

It’s all about family.

Derek apologized in advance for bringing the South with him but he’s blameless—on that score, anyway. If there’s anyone he should apologize to it’s the South themselves; but on the on other hand, they were so game he ought to have charged admission.

I know I would have paid to see it.

But didn’t have to!

And that’s another thing about bike riding: cheap thrills.

The rain that started falling a bit harder at Westlake Center was free. And no cost for the real winter storm we rode through to the Aboretum. And the only price of admission for the thrilling ramble through park trails and passageways to a secluded shelter was my headlamp when Sketchy's hijinks led to a little crash but no fall.

Ah, family.

My own family is visiting Minneapolis, so it was nice to have a dose of real family on tonight’s ride, sisters and husbands to remind us how to do that with each other.

And I think we did pretty well: Idaho Spud confections and gin all around!

That’s family.

The way back to Lake Washington Boulevard was way more an adventure than the way there; I felt a little lost but knew I’d be okay when Pete starting singing out “There’s a hole in the bucket” because in that moment, I heard family coming from all directions.

Which is why, of course, I bailed on joining for the next part of the evening at the CIP. When you can choose your family, you have that option.

Nothing, though, is nicer than seeing folks who have no choice to be together also be happy to be with one another: I’m never more satisfied being in a bike gang than when it feels like family that wants to be.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Breaking Training

One thing I never do is train. I figure anything I might do, I may as well just do.

I find the idea of getting ready to do something as opposed to just doing it hard to swallow; consequently, I’d prefer to dive right in and end up over my head rather than learning to swim beforehand. I’d call this “on the job training” if it had anything to do with a job.

Lots of people I know and respect take bicycle “training rides.” They tell me that they are “getting in shape” for some future event. Good for them. But not for me.

Now, no doubt part of my reluctance to train is that I fancy myself already prepared for whatever challenge I’m willing to be up for. (No doubt as well this limits the challenges I’m prepared to undertake, but so be it.)

“Life is not a dress rehearsal” goes the old saw; I myself am not convinced that it isn’t; however, if indeed it is, then it’s clear to me that opening night never arrives. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind if life IS a dress rehearsal; I’m just glad it’s not one of those double-time run-throughs we used to do before the show opened.

Perhaps I’m just opposed to the idea of training in general; while I do appreciate the idea of improving one’s overall health and fitness through various activities (or at least using those activities to keep one’s well-being steady while engaging in behaviors that would be deleterious to it otherwise), I push back at the notion that we might be doing such-and-such in order to arrive at some place we’re currently not.

In other words, rather than seeing “training” as a means to some end, I’d prefer to think of it as an end it itself. My bike rides aren’t meant to get me anywhere other than their destination, and that’s a place, not a state of being.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Nervous Breakdown

Seems like nobody has nervous breakdowns anymore, which is too bad, because I think I could really go for one about now.

Used to be you’d hear about a successful man, usually, but sometimes a woman, who would just go off and crack up, the explanation being his or her nerves were shattered. One minute, they’re a high-powered advertising executive or perfect suburban housewife, the next, they’re cowering in a corner, freaked out by their shoes.

Now, maybe some of these breakdowns were a euphemism for something else—a stint in rehab, maybe recovery from an illegal abortion—but at least some were what they claimed to be: somebody succumbing to the responsibilities of day-to-day living and not being able to take it anymore.

In my idealized version, the person having the breakdown is whisked away by the men in white coats to a soothing sanitarium with pale green walls, starched sheets, and sprays of callalilies everywhere. There, you get to cut out paper dolls strung together by the arms and legs until, miraculously, some months later, you return to the world, just a tiny bit fragile-looking, but with a new gleam in your eye and not only that, 10 pounds lighter.

Nobody mentions your time away, or if they do it’s in hushed tones and veiled references. You’re said to have “been in the mountains,” or “gone off to take the waters” or some such thing. Your old position is still waiting for you, but with none of the pressures associated with it and no one looks askance when you go out for long lunches and come back smelling slightly of gin.

And maybe you’re no longer on the fast track to success, but that’s no matter; you get to be the fellow in the corner office who reads manuscripts all day long and reports directly to the President on matters of vague importance.

That’s what I’d like.

And man, it’s only the first day of the quarter.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Glad That's Over

Thankfully, the Steelers succumbed to the Jagoffs in yesterday’s game; now, with Pittsburgh out of the playoffs and the Christmas decorations stowed away, I can get on with my life and do good works that make the world a better place in the new year—instead of sitting on my ass, drinking beer, and rearranging the furniture in hopes of helping my team win even though it’s clearly an act of neurotic narcissism to think I could do anything to make a difference in how well the Black and Gold play.

I did though, have a few moments during which I thought it was going to turn out just fine; after Pittsburgh fell behind 28-10 at halftime, I broke out my homemade Primanti Brothers sandwiches—soft sourdough bread, buttered and toasted light, melted provolone and swiss cheeses, French fries, thousand island dressing, cole slaw, mayonnaise and mustard—so the boys came back and with the help of a couple or three Rolling Rocks, pulled ahead by one point.

Alas, victory was not to be, as Jacksonville, much as they did during the regular season game, marched down the field as time ran out and snatched away the game; I blame it on the offense, who failed to convert a third and six that would have allowed them to run out the clock—although maybe the fact that I made a bet that won, (given that the Steelers did cover the spread) had something to do with it.

So now, for the remainder of the season, football watching is a mere entertainment rather than a way of life and that’s got to be a good thing, all things considered. At the very least, it’s unbecoming for a man of my advanced years to get so wrapped up in something so totally inconsequential.

I’m glad the Seahawks won, though; now I can scoff at the locals who’ll be terribly exercised over next week’s game; meanwhile, I’ll be making the world a better place.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Playoff Picks

Last week was a bust; none of the teams who had “nothing to play for” played as if they had anything to play for and even though I called it to win on the Patriots-Giants game, the Steelers, Colts, and Seahawks all let me down. That means it’s payback time this weekend.

Straight up, I’m picking all the home teams except Tampa Bay to prevail; Manning learned how to win on the road in Buffalo and that will carry over certainly. Seattle’s “twelfth man,” lame as that sounds, will be sufficiently a factor to put an end to Washington’s “team of destiny” run; San Diego will beat Tennessee, and the Steelers, of course, will make amends for their surprising loss to Jacksonville earlier in the season.

Against the spread, though, things change a bit. The Steelers, naturally, as underdogs, will cover it easy, but Seattle, at -3.5, won’t. I see a Josh Brown field goal as time runs out giving the Seahawks a 3 point victory, so I’m going with the Redskins there. The Giants at +3 having nothing to worry about against Tampa Bay; however, the Chargers-Titans game will be close. I can’t imagine that, given the animosity between the two teams that San Diego, at +10 can possibly cover the spread, so I’m going with the Titans.

What’s weird to me is that, on futures, the Steelers are 30-1 to win the Superbowl. At the beginning of the season, they were only 25-1; how can they have less of a chance to win now that they’re in the playoffs as they did before the first snap of the season?

I’m tired of the ongoing canonization of the Patriots; frankly, I wish I could be against them winning it all; it’s not obvious to me that they really have it over the Colts should that come to pass, and there’s no doubt that Pittsburgh will beat them should they have the chance.

Bet on it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reading the Signs

It started pouring down rain just after halfway on my ride home yesterday and I began to think that the message was to not go out on the Thursday night ride; I even got a flat tire at 6:15 at the bottom of MLK and Madison, a good half hour walk home or 10 minutes at least to change the tire in the dark plus another 15 minutes uphill, meaning I’d never make it to Westlake Center in time; but as it turned out, I think, what the Universe was trying to tell me was not to take the trailer on the Saluki, because no sooner did I pull the panniers off the bike, undo the brake straddle cable, and pull out a spare tube, did a bus pull up and the driver even waited to establish eye contact with me before he didn’t pull away but rather, let me load my rig on first and then make a second trip to the curb to retrieve my bags and then, too boot, didn’t balk when I told him that my wallet with my U-Pass was in my handlebar bag; no sooner did all that transpire that there I was, home safely with plenty of time to wonder about what it all meant before drying out and deciding that since the rain had all but stopped and since the clothes that I needed—my gloves and gaitor—were dried out, it made sense to at least ride down to the meet-up and see if anyone else would show, and at first, it seemed like me, Sketchy, and Rogelio were going to be it, but before you knew it, many of the usual suspects appeared and some 16 or so, including Lee with the trailer set out to Ballard and only got separated once before sustenance at the Lock and Keel, wood with the fubar in Freelard, and fire at Gasworks Park, all of which apparently communicated the Universe’s message: “Ride.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Skiing Again

Making this weird last Wednesday before school starts feel even more like a Sunday—there’s even a football game on tonight—Mimi and I went skiing at Snoqualmie Summit.

Snow conditions were amazing—a couple inches of fluffy powder on top of a smooth solid base—and lift lines were, for the most part, short, except that time we got stuck on the bunny hill chair in order to avoid walking up the short hill to one of the main chairs.

And I must say, I still adore the strange practice of sliding down a slippery hill on boards; (I always think that if the Martians invade, they’re going to find skiing one of humanity’s quirkiest habits—but maybe they’ll consider it as charming as we do watching Sea Otters and Penguins glide down waterfalls.)

But gawd! The preparations and horsepower needed to make this recreation possible! I’m exhausted by the time we hit the slopes and flabbergasted by the sheer energy needed to finally slide down that first hill.

It starts the night before when we have to run around the house looking for all the various pieces of gear—hats, gloves, long underwear, etc. Invariably, something is missing and that minor crisis has to be dealt with or averted somehow.

And then, it’s up and out of bed at an unreasonable hour for a day off; breakfast, such as it is, is bolted; and afterwards, the drive, for at least an hour—thankfully handled today by our neighbor and friend Elod in his four-wheel drive.

The nadir of the day was an hour and fifteen minute ordeal to rent skis, standing in one line then another, feeling more like a cow than a skier, trying to keep smiling while potential runs slipped away inexorably.

Eventually, however, we made it to the slopes, got in half a dozen good runs and worked up enough of an appetite that the 8 dollar Gardenburgers seemed like a deal.

Can’t wait to go back.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My Hangover Cure

Regain consciousness about 7:30, after nearly four hours of dreamless sleep; check for body parts; confirm location in own bed; remove socks and putter to bathroom; pee, wondering why someone left an axe in head even though, clearly, effects of overindulgent inebriation have yet to wear off; avoid catching reflection in mirror; putter back to bed; fall asleep for another hour or so.

Haul ass from the sack at 8:45; return to bathroom, brush teeth, facing reflection—no visible signs of struggle, so why is the axe still in head?

Locate clothes, miraculously all in one heap, slowly dress, trying to avoid the din of zippers being pulled and buttons buttoning.

Gingerly do stomach exercises, half-heartedly, and yet with desired effect. Read sports pages, trying to get excited about reports of yet another half-dozen meaningless college bowl games.

Drink two cups of yesterday’s cold coffee, shiver, then take two Exedrin and several cups of water; wonder why both drinks taste like metal.

Overdress for the surprisingly warm day outside, open shed and pull down single-speed bike; be slightly amazed at still being able to ride; roll down the alley, trying to avoid running over any pebbles; bumps suck.

Pedal as hard as possible down hill, preferring the pain of spinning to the aforementioned head axe; stop in at Saigon Deli; eschew the delicacies marinating in the steam tables; order and drink sweet Vietnamese coffee; toss empty in dumpster.

Cruise through Pioneer Square taking account of trash heaps leftover from New Year’s revels; mash up past Pike Market and by Noc-Noc club, marveling at the partyers still going at nearly 10:00 in the morning.

Pound up Pike to Capitol Hill QFC; buy sixteen ounce Coke and drink half before paying; finish rest on ride to 15th Street; coast down Union, pedal home.

Let dog out; stand in back yard feeling almost whole again; eat cheese sandwich, read paper; write hangover cure blog entry; make more coffee; take a nap.