Sunday, March 30, 2008


People showed up, absolutely and utterly came through on every level, and then rode bikes home in weather so shitty you just had to laugh and what’s even funnier, had pretty much passed by the time I left the bar, half an hour after everyone else.

Daniel Featherhead
won, of course, finishing almost a minute before second place finisher, Rob Johnson, who admitted he benefited from having ridden the route last Tuesday.

But for me, the Taco Truck Time Trial was all about all these people I care about completely humbling me with their amazing assistance in bringing it off—Evil Mike, Laura, Ro, Ben, Lisa, Elod and the kids, Andy—who freakin’ found time to burn a CD of photos—at the checkpoints, Jen Dixon making calls and picking up after me, Alex, huffing the Conference Bike from his shop to the Alehouse, and all the riders, rocking those hills, bellies full of tacos, and no one wanting to strangle me at the end.

Megan Stein and Trevor Sargent won Swrve's DFL hats in style, on a tandem decked out as a taco and G*retch earned first girl honors, taking home the coveted Vapolution prize package for her efforts.

Forty racers overall, which was just right, with a prize for everyone, and hats for all the youngsters; Deb’s homemade powerbars blew people away (glad I tucked a few aside beforehand); and the weather held for signups and the start, then got lousy enough to ensure that folks stayed inside drinking until the Mighty Arrow was gone.

The moment emblazoned forever in my consciousness was piloting the conference bike around the block in Madrona, kids hanging off every seat, shit-eating grins on the faces of friends and loved ones all around.

And amazingly, I arrived home with all my parts and wallet, too, a testament to how swimmingly things go when people represent; it’s like the CoBi; you could ride it yourself, but with others pedaling too, you fly.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I think I thought that if I just stayed out in it, if I rode my bike through sleet and snow all afternoon and evening, the weather wouldn’t dare not be better today.

Or, I’d be proof that it’s really not so bad—as long as you’ve got a warm base layer, you can put up with whatever Mother Nature throws you.

That must be why I didn’t let the elements—well, water and air, anyway—stop me from riding through Seattle’s freakish afternoon snow shower to visit each of the taco trucks on last time, letting them know that they are likely (at least if the weather’s not too scary for folks) to be descended upon by a gaggle of riders come Saturday afternoon between about 4:00 and 6:00.

And it must also explain why last night, after Critical Mass, I pedaled crosstown though shitty conditions and stayed out late enough to show up at the monthly Greenlake Race, where only three hardy souls—Brandon, Rob, and DJ Stroky—were hardy enough to compete.

I almost gave up around 11:00, when it seemed like the sleet would never stop, but after a couple glasses of coffee and a port at the Latona Pub, the air was clear and conditions were fine, if a bit chilly, for a race.

And my perseverance was rewarded, too, I believe, because who should show up at the Greenlake grandstand but the magical Daniel Featherhead out for a ride to Capitol Hill. Not only was I able to personally invite him to the Taco Truck Time Trial, but I also got to show him the nifty route to downtown across the Aurora Bridge and then that quick left across the highway down to Dexter and, in turn, have a riding partner for the worst parts of what would otherwise have been a lonely, cold slog home.

Ben was there, too, all smiles; if the weather didn’t stop a man on crutches, it shouldn’t stop anyone.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Weather or Not

I’m pretty sure I’m all set up for tomorrow’s Taco Truck Time Trial; yesterday, I picked up the spoke cards and they look great.

Even better, I was charged a phenomenally cheap rate for the job, so much so that I had to ask whether the price was indeed correct. The guy ringing me up just shrugged, so I figured that even if it was their mistake, I would simply take it as an unexpected gift, a sponsorship of sorts, from the printing place, so let me herewith give a shout-out to Kinko’s who, even if their accounting practices are a bit screwy, do a bang-up job when it comes to laminating and cutting colorful playing-card-sized pieces of cardboard to stick in the spokes of a bike wheel.

I’m going to visit the taco trucks one more time this afternoon to give them a heads-up about tomorrow; I’m not entirely sure how I’ll explain things, but I think if I just say that between the hours of about 4:00 and 6:00 on Saturday, there will be “lots of customers on bikes,” my point will be taken.

And I feel pretty confident I’ve got the helpers I need to help out at the checkpoints; at any rate, I’m relatively sure I can collar someone at the last minute tomorrow should I need to—people like to give away food and/or drink, right?

The one variable over which I have no control (damn it!) is the weather. If it’s like it is today—40-ish and sleety—the number of racers will probably be lower then expected. (But if that’s what I expect, then is it?)

On the other hand, if it’s like yesterday afternoon—50-ish with sun breaks—then there will probably be a higher number of folks who show.

I say, no matter what, don’t be a big pussy; show up rain or shine, STFU and ride; there will be lots of hot food and cold drinks to keep a person warm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Three Times Seventeen

I have this big red army-style footlocker filled with faded photographs, unpublished manuscripts, and other mementos of my youth—and, for that matter, not-so-youth, as well.

One of the items in there is my first journal, a hardbound ledger book given to me for Christmas 1973 by my first girlfriend, Wendy Bennett. I wrote in it for a couple of years, carrying it in my backpack when I hitchhiked across Canada in 1975, eventually filling it up with adolescent ruminations, until it pretty much fell apart under the weight of bad poetry when I was an aspiring actor/college student a few years later.

Today being my 51st birthday, I thought it would be illuminating—or at least horribly depressing—to look back into it to see what I was thinking 34 years ago when I was just 1/3rd as old as I now am.

I wrote, on March 27, 1974, “My birthday. I feel obligated to write, and wishful for some sparkling revelations to retain for posterity.”

And then I did, recording such brilliant nuggets as, “I want to grow my plants better. I want fifty million albums. I want to be less greedy, but get more stuff.”

Not much has changed--although I guess I would substitute “CDs” (or “downloads”) for albums.

I said, “I want to be just me, without any influences, most original and creative.” Nowadays, I don’t mind the influences, I just want to admire those from whom I poach my ideas.

I continued the entry with, “I want a lot of a million jillion things I’ll never get.” Today, I don’t feel so wracked with desire; I’m fairly content with all I have and don’t have a powerful sense of anything missing in my life—other than the Tournesol, which, I think, I’ll be riding within the month.

My final reflection that day was, “I feel better for writing this.” Three times as old right now, I feel generally the same way about these words.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Race Preview

It’s very different riding a route with a gang of people on a drizzly evening after a couple beers than it is taking it on by yourself in the bright early morning with just coffee in your belly. Plus, doing it on a single-speed running about 62 gear-inches is a wholly other experience than rolling on a 24-speed whose low is no more than 20 gear-inches tops.

That said, it was plenty fun—for me, anyway—to preview the Taco Truck Time Trial route last night for what started out as about 15 riders leaving the “Broken Obelisk”-free Red Square (apparently, it’s been removed for cleaning) but which ended up, after the first taco truck stop, winnowed down to half a dozen.

What I hadn’t realized, riding the route all by my lonesome, was how steep the three steep hills are, a fact which was brought home to me pretty clearly last night by the epithets thrown in my direction by my fellow riders and by the simple fact that I had to get off the Quickbeam and push for each of the post-taco truck climbs.

I still think the fastest riders will probably come in well under 90 minutes, a prospect that makes me worried about how I’ll get from the start to finish in time to record their arrivals, but we’ll see…

I was given a much better idea of how to integrate the Conference Bike into the start than what I was thinking of yesterday. The way it will work, I think, is that every time another seven racers sign in, they will be assigned a group which will then go ride the CoBi around the block; the group’s time will be recorded, and that will set the placements for when each group of seven leaves, spaced 5 minutes apart.

The potential for my messing up timings is huge; this strategy, though, will give me more room for error to err within.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


When I think of all the things I could—and probably should—be thinking about (like ending world hunger, solving the global climate change crisis, or what it would take to be a better husband and father) and compare that to what I do tend to occupy my mind with (like what it would take to lose five pounds, whether to buy that wool jersey on eBay, or how to adjust my bike saddle so I’m neither sliding forward nor crushing my nuts), I get sort of depressed. I’m certainly not living up to my potential (whatever that means)—but at the same time, ruminating over that is certainly also an example of the same sort of mindless mental activity I think I ought to eschew.

Take, for instance, my one big thought for today, which has to do, not surprisingly with the very event I have already expended far too much brainpower fussing over: the Taco Truck Time Trial.

I went over to Dutch Bike Seattle to meet the owners in person and to take a first-hand look at the Conference Bike, and my brainstorm—or call it a “drizzle,” anyway, although it was pouring outside when I got there—is to include it, on Saturday, as an integral part of the race.

It holds seven riders, so what racers will have to do, is team up into groups of that size, and then, one group after another, as their staggered time trial start, will ride the CoBi down the block and back before individuals set out on their own bikes for the rest of the race.

This will clump riders into groups of a nice size, but will also stretch out the groups sufficiently that they won’t all arrive at the taco trucks simultaneously. Might make for some funny teamwork, too.

My only concern is logistics; if there are too many groups, it could take a while.

But if I keep thinking about it, maybe I can solve that, too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break

I turned in my grades today and so now, I’m officially on spring break. Woo-hoo, Ft. Lauderdale, here I come!

(Actually, I’ll be staying home all week, catching up on laundry and housecleaning and reading some S.J. Perelman, whose delights I haven’t savored in a while, but who, all things considered, is probably, if not my most favorite writer ever, at least the one who I would most like to emulate.)

(Wow, weird; I just noticed that Perelman would have turned 100 this Sunday and is getting a bit of press as a result; I wonder if I had noticed that somewhere or if I just picked it up through the zeitgeist.)

I’ll also be spending way more time thinking about and planning for the Taco Truck Time Trial than I should, especially since I’m all but done with the preparations. All that’s left now is to laminate the spoke cards and lubricate the riders.

Because of the funny way Leap Year played with our quarterly schedule, this is the first time I can remember when my birthday will fall during the vacation. Usually, spring quarter starts just as I’m turning over a new year; if I didn’t have so much prep work to do for the two new classes I’m teaching in spring, I could probably really live it up. As it is, I’ll be happy to have a glass of wine at lunch on the 27th.

The problem, of course, with this little vacation is that it’s too long, by which I mean too short. It generally takes, at a minimum, an entire week off to get into the groove of an extended break. I need at least seven days to start feeling bored enough to begin doing things of my own accord; before that, I’m content just to lie around. So, just as I’m feeling motivated, it’s back to school.

I may as well just relax, then, and have that glass of wine now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Little Wimpy

I usually don’t let the weather stop me from biking, and I didn’t this morning when taking the bike ride of shame in a steady spring shower to pick up the car from where we’d left it last night, but when it came to heading out around noon in a drenching downpour to participate in today’s cargo bike ride, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Later in the afternoon, after it turned windy and clearer, I rode to Gasworks Park to raise a toast in honor of the 20 or so folks who had done the ride, proving themselves, at least for now, much hardier than me. I felt sort wimpy as I stood around, mostly all dry while people’s gloves and socks dried steamily on the open fire.

So I only hung out for a while before heading back home and what was funny and ironic and probably able to be interpreted as some kind of instant karma was that, just as I was about to ride from the entrance of Gasworks onto the street, an SUV passed in front of me, raising a huge sheet of water as it splashed through a puddle, soaking my pants and jacket with grape-sized drops of wet.

But, I dried fairly quickly in the gusty wind, so gusty, in fact, as I rode through a skyscraper canyon downtown near Westlake and Virginia, that I was blown sideways all the way from the curb to the centerline, which was funny so long as there were no cars coming.

Somehow, though, even after I turned up Pine Street, the winds never seemed to be at my back; I was sort of expecting to sail up the hill with a gale force behind me, but it didn’t work out that way; I still had to mash and spin all the way up to the top, enjoying the fine spring day, but breathing rather hard, after all, still a little wimpy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Philosophy Conference

Somewhat surprisingly, I had a pretty good time at the American Philosophical Association Western Division Conference these past two days in Pasadena. My presentation as part of a panel discussion on doing philosophy with kids was very well-received; I attended a number of talks that I found thoughtful and thought-provoking; I saw a handful of people I know and like; and best of all, I think, I was reminded how much I like talking about and hearing other people talk about ideas intelligently, reasonably, and often, using big words.

My favorite session was one yesterday entitled “Consent.” The main speaker, a guy named Arthur Ripstein, argued that in order for consent to be achieved, and offer has to be given and assented to, such that both parties achieve a meeting (or he may have said “union” of the wills. The commentator, a philosopher I’ve seen and been really impressed by before, Seana Schiffrin, responded that it seems like in lots of cases, consent can be given even if the person to whom consent is given hasn’t yet accepted, like if I consent to a medical procedure before evening knowing if the doctor would be available to perform it.

Both, however, agreed that the person giving consent has to make public the offer, which made me wonder how public that has to be. Suppose, for instance, I’m a shy teenage boy, and before going out on a date, I write in my journal (which unlike my blog, I never want anyone to ever read) that I hope the girl I’m with will kiss me. I don’t tell her this and because I’m so shy, I don’t give her any clues on the date that I would like her to plant a wet one on my lips.

Have I therefore, though, given her my consent to kiss me? My own intuition is that I have, but maybe that’s because, if not, I probably never ever would have been kissed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Young, the Poor, and the Drunk

I lived in LA from 1980 to 1984, and then again from 1988 through 1989, but tonight, in one single evening, I rode public transportation more than I did that entire time.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, and I very much felt a need for some sort of counterpoint to the earlier part of my day, which was spent in hotel ballrooms with (mostly) middle-aged white folks talking about and listening to ideas that may or may not make any difference in the long run to how people live their lives and go about making their important (and even unimportant) choices as parents, children, and citizens in what is at least allegedly a representative democracy in the early years of the 21st century.

I caught the LA Metro in Pasadena and rode it to Chinatown where I got off and had a drink at a restaurant with an incredibly surly bartender. Afterwards, I walked back to the station, took the train downtown, and transferred to the Red Line, which I took to Hollywood for a beer at a bar whose name escapes me now. But what I do recall is thinking how all the people I saw around me on the subway were either young, poor, or drunk, or some combination of the three. Oddly enough, I felt much more at home among them than with the gray-haired academics I was surrounded by earlier in the day.

Eventually, I hung out at an old haunt, the Frolic Room for a couple of beers and then took the bus back to my hotel in Pasadena. Both the wait and the ride were much longer than I expected them to be, but it hardly mattered—I had no other place I needed to be and as long as I was doing something I never had before, it all seemed quite entertaining for a fellow who is neither young nor poor and only a little drunk.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lolita and The Collector

Over the past two weeks, I’ve re-read both Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece Lolita and then the lesser-known, but arguably equally-powerful The Collector by John Fowles. Jen noticed my choice in literature and said something like, “Should I be worried that you’re on this kick of stories about creepy guys obsessed with beautiful young girls?”

Maybe a little.

But the two books, despite being—on the face of it—similar in their content, are really quite different. Lolita is, I think, at its core, really a love story. Humbert Humbert adores his Dolores Haze, and even though he corrupts her vilely, he has only the most heartfelt feelings for her and ultimately—as we see in the scene later in the book when he comes to her tumbledown shack in the country and finds her no longer a nymphet, but a tired-looking pregnant young woman but still says he would take her away with him and care for her unfailingly should she only utter the word—demonstrates that, sick as he is, his love is pure.

The Collector, though, is, I think, a story mainly about the banality of evil. Fred the butterfly collector only wants to possess his Miranda and the fact that he ultimately lets he die rather than be discovered shows that whatever feelings he had for the girl had far less—if anything—to do with her needs than his own.

So, in some way, maybe I was only reading one book about a creepy guy’s obsession, although it certainly was rather strange at times to be a gray-haired middle-aged dude sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop surrounded by all these attractive young girls (and boys for that matter) some thirty years his junior and not being able to help noticing that the way these narrators (especially Humbert) were referring to the objects of their devotion in terms that, had I been drinking booze instead of coffee, I could have imagined myself using to describe what I was seeing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prize Sponsors

It’s kinda amazing: companies will give you free stuff with nary a second thought in support of some whacked-out, half-assed probably-illegal bicycling event and all you have to do is promise to let participants know who those companies were and make some sort of arrangements to communicate that to company representatives afterwards.

Or, at least that’s been my experience so far rounding up prizes for the Taco Truck Time Trial; I can’t believe how forthcoming businesses—large and small—have been in sending me some pretty choice schwag for my little race; and all it’s taken on my part is a few phone calls and a handful of emails.

Chrome Bags, for instance, mailed me a Citizen messenger bag (retail value $110 bucks), no questions asked; Swrve Cyling sent a couple of pullover hoodies and a pair of cycling caps (about $100 total); Vapolution Vaporizors has promised a Vapolution package worth about $150.00; New Belgium Brewery contributed three cases of beer and is buying a keg for the after-party (that’s gotta be, like they say, “priceless,”); Victrola Coffee Roasters threw in a $25.00 coffee card; and the list goes on.

Every day stuff shows up in the mail and Jen’s like: “How do these people know you’re legit?” And the point is, they don’t. I could easily—well, not without a bit of complication—be running a somewhat elaborate scam to get all these free stuff for myself.

So I guess it somewhat restores my faith in the world of business—at least businesses associated with bicycling—that all these companies are so trusting. Yeah, sure, they’re doing it for marketing purposes, but also, they seem genuinely interested in supporting what I hope will be a really good time for a whole bunch of people on two wheel—and in the case of the Conference Bike, four, isn’t it?

So even though I won’t be racing on 3/29, (I’ve already ridden the route a couple times, though), I already feel like a winner.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Misplaced Weekend

My half-century-plus liver is way too old for this shit but that’s just how it worked out this Friday and Saturday evenings, as I consumed way more brown liquor than usual, ending up in bed both nights wearing an unusual amount of clothing, especially socks.

Friday, I met up at cocktail hour with my friend, Andrew Light, the noted environmental philosopher and as we conversed about everything from Elliot Spitzer to the Kyoto Protocol, I downed three Manhattan rockses, enjoying the view of the street from the window of Tini Biggs restaurant, a place that bills itself as the second-best cocktail lounge in Seattle. (I’m not sure what the best place is, but Tini’s probably has it beat when it comes to volume; the rocks glass that held my drink could have doubled as a soup tureen.) At this point, I thought we were done for the nonce, so I made a final pit stop in the men’s room only to return and find that Andrew had bought another round.

This led me to think it a good idea to have yet another and then when we finally departed, try to sober up a bit with some cannabis as I rode down Second Avenue, the result of which was that it made perfect sense to stop for a nightcap at the Whiskey Bar where I stood at the bar, cocktail before me, my eyes closed trying my damndest (unsuccessfully) to recall where I was. But, I made it home safely and even awoke in time to make it to Saturday morning yoga class where I learned that three ibuprofen consumed before stretching makes knee pain—if not headaches—go away quite well.

Saturday night, Mimi had a sleepover and so Jen and I went out to a part that, at 10:30 seemed endless, but after another drink or two was still going strong at 4:00 in the morning.

Which is more than I could say for me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Riding the Route

This afternoon, I rode what I’m pretty sure will be the route for the Taco Truck Time Trial. It took me about an hour and a half, including waiting for tacos at each of the trucks; so I’m thinking really fast riders, like Daniel Featherhead or Seth Horton (winner of the Patchkit Alleycat) will probably do it in around an hour.

I figured out how to make the course a bit more diabolical: there’s a nice steep hill following right after each taco truck; it will be interesting to see if this induces regurgitation in any of the racers. Having filled my belly with one taco at each of the trucks today, I did feel a bit dyspeptic after the climb following the third one, but nothing close to hurling. (Of course, I wasn’t really pushing it, not like I could imagine someone way more competitive than me might do.)

I thought the eats at each place were pretty good and I liked that every one had its own special touch. At one place, my veggie taco had whole beans; at another, a perfectly ripe avocado slice topped my order; at a third, a dollop of sour cream crowned my food.

I’m not entirely sure yet how I’ll make sure all the riders have a taco waiting for them when they arrive; from the point of view of conviviality, I don’t mind if folks have to stand around a bit and commingle as their orders are being filled; but it might skew the race a bit if some riders have to wait and others don’t—but maybe that adds an element of chance to things that could be fun.

I am, of course, giving way too much thought to this whole thing; I’ve found myself lying awake at night making plans and trying to figure out what will go where and how.

I’m having fun, though, with the preparations; hopefully riders will, too, when race day comes around.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Waiting

I got the email yesterday from Steve Hampsten saying my Tournesol frame was back from the painter and did I want to come out to his shop and take a look-see.


So today, after restraining myself from stopping by unannounced on my ride home from school last night and, this morning, burning through a couple dozen late papers from students in my Philosophy 101 class, I rode out to Hampsten Cycles worldwide headquarters with the trailer stocked full of parts I’ve been hoarding over the last year for the new rig. The steady drizzle did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm; I don’t think I’ve ever made better time with Haulin Colin #3 in tow.

The frame is gorgeous; glossy black with red accented by gold panels on the downtube; exactly the homage to mid-70s Raleigh International and Motobecane Grand Record I had envisioned. The painter decided not to outline the lugs, which I’m glad about because, in retrospect, that strikes me as too fussy. And even though he didn’t do a red fill on the headtube, who needs one, since the Tournesol graphic pops out stunningly?

Now, because there are a few parts left to pick up, it’s going to be a couple more weeks before I get to ride it. At this point, the wait gets really hard—which is odd, since it’s already been about a year and a half; what’s another fortnight or so?

I think the answer has to do with tangibility; for the last eighteen months, the wait has been for a concept: my new bike, the bereavement bike, the one to replace the stolen Rambouillet.

Now, however, I’m waiting for an actual thing—something I’ve seen and touched and gotten my fingerprints on. It’s no longer just an idea; it’s something that, if I had right right bottom bracket installed, could—with wheels and a chain—be ridden home.

Maybe if I just conceptualize that ride, it’ll be easier to hang on.

Thursday, March 13, 2008



Wednesday, March 12, 2008


One of my students called Elliot Spitzer a “dirtbag,” and I think that’s right. Plus, he’s a hypocrite, too, which strikes me as equally bad.

But does the guy have to resign, putting a stunning end, as the Times puts it, to a crusading career?

I guess so.

That’s the way things play out in the good old US of A, where, once again, comparing the misbehaviors of the now former-governor of New York to the still-current President of the United States, it’s worse to put your own penis where you probably shouldn’t than it is to place thousands of your country’s troops where they certainly ought not.

As many people do, I feel worse for Mrs. Spitzer, who has had to play that all-too-common role of the wife of the disgraced politician who is forced by circumstances not of her making to gaze up (relatively) adoringly at the creep while he tearfully apologizes to his constituency while not obviously asking his spouse to forgive him. I hope at least he’s sleeping on the couch this week.

And the media frenzy around the whole thing! You’d think the guy was caught lying to the public to drum up support for an unjustified war against a sovereign nation or something. Oh, right, who cares about that?

Of course, here I am, in my own little bloggy way, doing just the thing I’m complaining about; you don’t see me writing pieces about the ongoing morass in Iraq; nope, I’m putting out my own 327 words about a governor who can’t keep his dick in his pants, not about a president who can’t keep his military at home.

Ultimately, of course, this whole thing is just sad—for Spitzer, his wife and family, for the good people of New York state, and maybe especially for the prostitute herself, who was quoted as saying, “I just don’t want to be thought of as a monster.”

Better that, though, than a dirtbag.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On and Off

I left school today all geared up in a driving rain that was reasonably miserable for the first four miles or so, chilly and drenching with wind coming right at me, but I actually preferred that to what came after, a series of light showers that required me, sissy as I am about getting wet and pissy as I am about wearing my rain shit when it’s not, to dress and undress three different times, much to my dismay and the consternation of this older woman who I pulled up next to at a park bench to remove my pants, even if I did have another pair on underneath.

I suppose, since I was on my way home, that I could have just let myself get soaked, and if Grant Peterson is right about it being a good thing to occasionally be cold on a bike, then why not, but since I had my plastic pants and booties and my nicely water-resistant new Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie, it seemed a shame not to use them, but time and again (and again and again, to be exact) I had the stereotypical experience: as soon as I would get all my gear on and start pedaling, the rain would more or less stop; and then, as soon as I got undressed and began setting of once more down the trail, it would start up again.

This, though, is what it means to be spring in Seattle, and I’m glad that the dark days of winter are passed even though, thanks to the unwelcome advent of Daylight Saving Time, it’s once again the middle of the night when I try to awake in the morning.

And the air, freshened by the continual March showers, smells to me like watermelon, and daffodils are popping up all over, and yesterday morning, about a thousand sparrows were singing in our backyard, so where do I get off complaining about having to change clothes?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Yoga vs. Cycling

One of the definitions of yoga is “union;” I understand that as a reminder that a dynamic tension exists between opposites; in poses, for instance, we’re always trying to balance striving with contentment; as we breathe, we want to find the place where the inhale and exhale meet; and even in relaxation, we try to maintain a sense of aliveness and energy. Mixing cultural metaphors, it’s a yin/yang thing, a combination of light and dark, opposites attracting, or something like that, I don’t know.

What I do think I understand, however, is how two of my favorite things to do—ashtanga yoga and bicycle riding—seem to create this same sort of dynamic within me; they are constantly fighting it out with my body as the battlefield so to speak, and lately, it seems, bicycling is winning.

Around this time last year, I could do the entire Ashtanga first series and about half of the second almost entirely pain-free; nowadays, though, I don’t even really attempt the second and am glad to survive that first series with only having to modify three or four poses in order to manage them without tears springing to my eyes—and I blame a good deal of this on how much cycling I do. If it weren’t for way hill-climbing tightens up my quadriceps and hips, I might be able to get my feet around my neck or at least do Marichyasana D in some place other than my dreams.

By the same token, if I were to spend all the time I currently spend doing yoga riding around (or even, heaven forfend, training!) on my bike, I might not always get passed by everyone on the trail during my right home.

I’m not inclined, though, to give up either of these pursuits; I’ll just let their pitched battle continue; and if it’s true that cycling is slightly in the lead right now; it’s only a matter of time before yoga rebounds.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bike Expo

I’ve probably said it before, and I definitely think it again: I like bicycling much better than bicycle riders, bicycles way better than the bicycling world.

I was reminded of this today when Mimi and I rode the tandem down to Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual Bike Expo, that strange mixture of corporate bike store warehouse sale and trade show for makers of (mostly, it seemed) energy drinks, candy bars, and alternative human “fuel” sources.

In fact, the most “bikey” part of the whole thing was our ride down there and back; the scene inside the exhibition hall—Pier 30 on the waterfront—felt more like, (at best) the MacWorld convention, (at worst) Nordstrom Rack on sales day.

My intent was to shmooze exhibitors in the hope of drumming up prizes for the Taco Truck Time Trial, but I soon learned my heart wasn’t in it. I did pass out a couple handfuls of flyers and gave a number to folks I knew and/or recognized, but it wasn’t as if bicycle products corporations are falling all over themselves to offer up free merchandise to some random guy trying to promote an illegal race geared to riders who aren’t really the demographic those companies are trying to sell to. (I can safely say, for instance, I’ve never seen anyone on a .83 ride eating Gu Energy Gel and washing it down with electrolyte water.)

There was an impressive display of vintage bicycles from the collections of Elliot Bay Cycles and Bainbridge Classic Cycles, including a very cool Schwinn Paramount track bike with curved seat stays as well as a bicycle-powered lawn mower.

Mimi and I also tried to stay and listen to the Metal Cowboy Joe Kurmaski, but found his schtick a bit too over the top and lacking in humility, so we split, the plastic bag handed to us as we entered especially for schwag, all but empty, just a single free Clif bar and a map in the bottom.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Moon in Pisces

Derek drove his Stinky McStinkster Huffalicious moped thing and what was most striking, aside from just how fucking loud and stinky it was, was how when he disappeared off onto some other route, it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t hearing or smelling it, that the buzzing in my ears and itching in my nose had gone and only the relative silence of gears clicking and chains turning remained.

But it’s an adorable toy and I even enjoyed skitching a ride along Alki after beers at the Beveridge Place Pub where it was old home week for a pitcher or two with the crew from ABR and Aaron and Joby in the same room without hardly an epithet hurled or past action begrudged—just another expression of the evening’s open-arm policy of welcoming all, even the motorized.

We had climbed the super steep but not too long “Snake Hill” to Langston’s home among the forest of new condos on High Point and then bombed down to Fauntleroy and I was marveling how what had begun, on my commute home from Bothell, as a cold and rainy winter night, eventually turned into a lovely spring evening. And apart from misplacing my wallet and then having the adreline rush of being sure it was gone followed by the sighing relief of finding it again something like three times in a row, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I took it very slowly from West Seattle to Magnolia for Ben and karaoke at the Boxcar, but not so much that I didn’t catch up twice, once during plastic cheese nachos at the Seven-Eleven and once as the folding bike’s tire was attended to just east of the bridge. No nine-toed angry hippies were drunk enough to sing and me neither, so ultimately it was over the Ballard bridge behind the Huffalicious all the way to Fremont where it ran outta gas and I headed home in blessed silence.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pump or Fix

I’m riding past the Center for Urban Horticulture on my favorite shortcut off the Burke Gilman just after ignoring the “Detour” signs and going straight through the part of the trail where they’re doing a bit of asphalt resurfacing, when I begin to feel the telltale mushiness in my rear tire.

“Maybe it’s just the gravel I’m riding on,” I tell myself hopefully, but soon it’s apparent—and even moreso when I dismount and squeeze my rear tire—that I’ve got a puncture and am losing (have lost) air; but now I’m faced with the perennial question in situations like this: do I stop and take the time to change my tube or can I just get by with pumping it up and hurrying home before the tire goes completely flat?

I try the easy way once, but only get about a quarter mile before I feel the rim bouncing on the pavement, so with something like four miles left in my commute, the prudent thing to do is change the tube, which I do, taking about ten minutes to save at least that long in pumping time had I decided to just keep stopping and re-inflating instead.

But it occurred to me afterwards that this is like the central metaphorical question in my life at the present time: I’m in all these situations where it’s unclear to me whether to soldier on, merely re-inflating my punctures, or stop and take the time to fix them.

Like, for instance, my bad left knee. Do I just keep treating the pain with acupuncture and denial, or do I get an MRI and surgery?

Or in my teaching: should I keep tweaking my existing syllabi or throw them out and start completely anew?

Or as an investor: make a few trades here and there or sell it all and buy land in New Mexico?

Or with this blog: keep noodling with the existing form or trying changing over completely to 328 words?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Great Global Warming Swindle

We watched this video, The Great Global Warming Swindle, today in the Critical Thinking class; in it, the filmmakers, using innuendo, damn lies and statistics, and arguably fallacious appeals to authority, ignorance, and fear, argue that anthropogenic global warming brought on by an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is, at best, a mistaken conclusion on the part of climatologists, at worst, a conspiracy supported by radical environmentalists, politicians, and self-interested NGOs and researchers eager to keep their funding streams alive.

Frankly, I don’t buy it; while all the experts (and some of them did seem to have fairly weighty scientific pedigrees) in the film proposed that fluctuations in the sun’s radiation is the main cause behind the rise in global temperatures during the end of the 20th century and on into the 21st, I was not at all convinced that the increasing rate of global warming can be explained without the greenhouse effects brought on by all the CO2 human activity has been releasing into the atmosphere over the last century or so.

But it was nice to fantasize for a while that maybe we’re not all doomed by our own hands and that thirty years from now people will look back on concerns about global warming with the same chuckle we currently do over fears of global cooling during the 1970s.

Of course, the downside would be that I couldn’t be nearly so smug about being a cycle commuter as I am now; I think, though, that I’d be willing to trade my holier-than-thou attitude for the assurance that my child—and grandchildren should that come to pass—might possibly still be able to live in a world where there are polar bears in the wild and where 200 million climate refugees aren’t suffering from disease, starvation, and homelessness.

Besides, I’ll still be able to brag about being a cyclist on these grounds: traffic reduction, decreased air pollution, and general overall coolness of two wheels vs. four.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Spin

It’s light by 6:30 in the morning these days and if I wake up by then on a Sunday morning, I can’t really get back to sleep so it’s onto my bike, why not?

Today I sampled what I’m pretty sure will be the route for the Taco Truck Time Trial; I think it’s going to work out great. Turns out it’s just about 13 miles, with a few decent climbs, especially right after riders hit the third truck stop. (I’m thinking of putting a bucket at the top of Graham Hill with a sign that says, “Welcome to the Chunderdome!” Anybody who pukes into it earns a few extra seconds of bonus time. Or maybe not.)

This morning, anyway, was a sweet little spin: the roads still pretty empty of cars, a bit of overcast burning off as I warmed up pedaling, too. Following the admonition never to pass up warm bread on a chilly morning, I hit the Columbia City bakery for caffeine and butterfat, and enjoyed pretending I was in some little French village having my croissant and café halfway through my ramble through the campagne. Or something like that.

I rode along Lake Washington Boulevard feeling superior, in my army surplus wool pants and Converse All-Stars, to the lycra-clad squids heading out for their morning training rides. But good for them; they’re on their bikes, even if they drove their cars to the place they started from. And even if they didn’t.

I tire of comparing myself to others and then denigrating them for being different than me; it’s a losing battle, anyway. What I really enjoy is just letting random thoughts cycle through my head as I cycle through the city.

This morning, for instance, it struck me that in the film we saw last night, Juno, all the characters revealed a sympathetic side of themselves, even those who seemed like stereotypes at first. All who ride the Taco Truck will too.