Monday, June 29, 2009

Self Divided

If I say to myself, “I hate myself for doing that,” or “If only could have done differently,” or “I’m not that sort of person,” (perhaps all self-referential statements), I assume that there are two of me (at least.).

And this seems kinda weird.

If there are two of me (at least), then which one is the real me? Can I be allowed to designate in all cases? I mean, can I always pick the one that, in retrospect, I would choose for myself?

And what the fuck does “in retrospect” mean, anyway?

It’s comments like that which open up the dialogue, and in doing so, demonstrate the two-self hypothesis admirably.

On the other hand, if we didn’t get to notice to ourselves how gorgeous a day it was we wouldn’t remember, would we?

Clearly, being of “two minds” about something is what makes us conscious. “Consciousness,” then, just means self-awareness.

And self-awareness assumes, by its very nature, two selves (at least).

Does my dog know that it’s a dog? It probably knows its place in the world much more closely than I do.

Well, no less so, anyway.

And probably way more.

I have tasks, though, that I set before me. Does she? Is she better or worse for having or not having them?

It’s also seems kinda weird to have the same sort of divided-self feelings in relation to one’s body. I do. It’s not that I’m not entirely sure whether I want my body to represent who I am in the world, it’s more like I look at my body and I’m not sure if that’s who I am.

Which means that if there’s a body and a mind and a mind, then there’s a body missing. So, maybe what love is is finding a body to put one of your minds into and when two people do that it’s a beautiful thing.

With three twenty-seven, it’s phenomenal, hah!

See the self-referential divide?

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yesterday, I did pretty much nothing to make the world a better place.

Oh, sure, I showed up at the Equality Yoga event at 9:00, expecting it would be a regular class that was over by 10:30, only to discover it wasn’t even starting until after 10:00 and that consequently, I’d only have time to participate in something like 10 minutes of practice before leaving for softball, but other than that tiny nod in support of a more just and equitable world for all, all I really did from the time I rose to the time I retired was just play around.

I did manage to feed the dogs, so I guess that counts for something, but as far as advancing the cause of humanity or even reading a little philosophy, I failed miserably.

The question is: how much should I care about this? To what degree, in other words, am I required to justify my existence through efforts that go beyond my own enjoyment? It’s summer vacation, after all; I worked reasonably hard all through the school year; is that enough, then, and can I just be a complete slacker for the next two months or so?

Part of the problem is that it’s not exactly clear what would constitute my making a positive difference in any case. I know I should probably type up lesson plans for philosophy for children classes, but beyond that, maybe the best I can do is just be kind to friends and family and refrain from snottiness and condescension to strangers.

Once again, the key to self-satisfaction appears to be setting the bar low.

Plus, I did have a pretty good time for most of the day; the Chuggers and Sluggers softball team scored an impressive come-from-behind victory in the second game of our doubleheader and Jen, Mimi, and I rode bikes to Georgetown for the Artopia event.

I did little for the world; it did much for me, though

Friday, June 26, 2009


It’s easy enough to spend so much time and energy focusing on everything you don’t get that you overlook all you have—a trite observation, but a common occurrence (at least for me), in any case.

Like last night, what I initially wanted was a forty-some mile roundtrip bike ride and a longshot victory with commensurate payoff in the last race at Emerald Downs; instead, I got a trip of about twenty miles from home to home and warm fire in a waterside park shelter in West Seattle along with many conversations, plenty of beer, and the occasional drama here and there to spy upon and take note of.

So, I could be all, “Wotta bummer, less than, coulda, shoulda, woulda,” but for why? Whatever was was good enough, since, after all, it had a goodly amount of pedaling, quaffing, and dissembling, and there was even singing at the end of the night, although that’s when I, after a twenty-minute search for a misplaced helmet, eventually made my way home.

It’s all about expectations, I guess. I could decide to bemoan that fact that what I was planning for from the evening didn’t come to pass; or I could simply savor what did occur, which was, truth be told, all a person could really hope for when it comes to Thursday night bike-riding and beer-swilling.

My favorite moment was pulling up en masse at the pile of salvaged wood neatly stacked under the trestles on the far side of the West Seattle bridge; logs and sticks were stuffed into messenger bags and panniers, and strapped with varying degrees of success to people’s racks. Way more than enough fuel made it the rest of way to Lincoln Park, in spite of a faggot or two falling to the pavement here and there.

So, I might have hoped for a bigger conflagration, but I have no complaints about all that did ignite; ultimately, it’s way more than I deserve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge

This is what it means to be an indulgent parent of an American kid turning twelve years old in the first decade of the 21st century: you pile her, three friends, and your spouse into a borrowed SUV and drive about a hundred miles from home to an oversized hotel/waterpark in the middle of nowhere, basically, and spend the equivalent of a weekend for two in Paris, France, so the kid can have a birthday slumber party and stay up all night before dragging herself and her buddies out the door right at 8:55AM to be the first ones down the big tubular waterslide when the park opens at 9:00.

Woo-hoo, I guess.

The good news is the place isn’t quite as scary as one might fear and the drinks in the bar are surprisingly strong; I’m hoping that this experience is a once-in-a-lifetime fad, but if the youngster really wanted to reprise the event next year, I wouldn’t be totally opposed to it.

The other upside is that our four young charges are too big to be into the Disney-influenced theme park going on in the hotel that requires children to figure out some kind of mock-adventure using plastic tree-branch wands that they wave at plastic injection-molded treasure chests and the like; the hallways are filled with young parents shepherding their toddlers around with that look of exhaustion and dyspepsia characteristic of doing something with your pre-schooler that’s been designed to maximize his or her likelihood of nagging you to buy some mass-produced fantasy knick-knack.

I fear, naturally, the consumerist indoctrination that’s going on here all around us; this is the type of place that trains youngsters to grow up to find the sights and sounds of Las Vegas attractive; once you develop a taste for themed hotels and animatronic singing animals, they’ve got you.

So I suppose that means indulgent parents will be footing the bill for a soiree at the Mirage in nine years.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not a Career Choice

Every time I go to the track, as I did yesterday, sort of in honor of Father’s Day with my fellow father—his first year as one, my 12th—Chris Badgely, I think, when I first get there, (and even more, in the full flush of victory after the first race picking the winner paying $8.40 to win), something like, “This is it! Piece of cake. Pari-mutual horse-race handicapping; I’ve got it all figured out; I’m gonna quit my job and become a fulltime railbird, hang out at the track all summer and make my living by picking winners at the ponies.”

Nine races later, with only a couple more small wins at relatively low payoffs, it becomes obvious to me that the only way I’m apt to come out ahead at the track is if I don’t go at all, or maybe if I just resolve to not bet on more than one or two of the races, making a few big bets rather than trickling away my stake on a whole bunch of smaller, mostly hunch wagers.

Still, it was a pretty good time, in a lovely, if somewhat surreal setting; there’s much to be said for having a couple of bloody marys and a few beers in the afternoon with at least the prospect of getting lucky and going home with a wad of cash in your pocket.

My only regret is that I didn’t invest more in support of the ten year-old West Seattle Boy, who won the feature race, paying $16.40 on the nose, but alas, the typical desire for a big win on the exacta undermined a more reasonable, in slightly conservative, betting strategy.

But see? This is the lesson gleaned from yesterday’s adventure, and if I only apply that knowledge to my next visit, I’ll be all set up to make a killing, allowing me to spend the rest of the summer raking in big bucks playing the fillies, right?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bad Boy

I live a reasonably ethical life; I don’t steal; I hardly ever lie (and never to hurt anyone, only to protect myself); I’m pleasant to strangers (except when they’re in automobiles trying to run me over); I pay my taxes, eat my vegetables, mow my lawn, and in general, follow most of the rules society has laid down for upstanding citizenry; when people think of me, I imagine I’m conceived of as a pretty nice guy, a good neighbor, and probably something of a role model for environmentally-sensitive, socially-responsible members of an urban community in the 21st century.


Maybe it’s a result of sleeping in a tent for a couple of nights; perhaps it’s the authentic sense of summer starting to creep in; or it could just be that I’m feeling my middle-aged oats, but I woke up this morning with an urge to break out of the tidy little life I lead and raise hell of the sort typically frowned on around here, especially by me.

Like I could see myself in a convertible Hummer driving away from the steakhouse I’d just had a huge meal at; I’m on my way to a Nascar event and I’m blaring buttrock from the cars huge stereo system. I’m rich beyond all measure because I’ve masterminded a 7 billion dollar Ponzi scheme in which I’ve fleeced thousands of investors of their life savings and I don’t care a whit because as far as I’m concerned they’re all greedy suckers who deserve to be taken.

I’ve left the water running at my house to water my huge lawn and later this evening, I will turn on all the lights in every room just because I can.

Okay, I’ve sort of gotten that out of my system; when I put it down in words, it doesn’t sound as appealing a I thought it would.

Maybe I just want to be a little bad; beer for lunch is a start.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Already Over

Man, summer hasn’t even really started yet—except for the part about school being out—but it’s already starting to feel like it’s already over.

When I tally up the days remaining and all the stuff that I want to do—and even more to the point, all the stuff that I don’t want to do—it seems like the time’s all gone; how am I ever going to fulfill my ambition to be absolutely without ambition if I’ve got to squeeze that into vacation plans, bike rides, and plowing through Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, or, at least, The New Yorker most weeks?

Thinking this way is, I know, to commit some strange cognitive error by which one compresses events by cataloguing them. That is, it’s clear to me that I misrepresent the way things really are—and will be—by casting forward and imagining that all these days yet to be have already, essentially, passed by. I conceive in clumps, in other words; a week in July gets smooshed down to a single concept: visiting New Mexico; three weeks in August turns into a nothing more than an idea; and before you know it, all the time I’ve planned for has disappeared.

It’s like when you pretend you’re going to win the lottery and you try to imagine how you’re going to spend the $200 million bucks; by the time you’ve planned your huge party, given huge monetary stipends to all your friends, bought a few custom bikes, and paid off the mortgage, man, you’re already broke and might as well not have won in the first place.

The thing is, I know that before September, there will be lots and lots of time that I’ll just be looking to fill up; long mornings when I’m tired of reading or writing and don’t know what to do with myself; so even though summer’s pretty much already gone, it’s not used up; me neither.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bicycle Belles

Here’s how joy is made manifest: take five to seven stunningly attractive young women—and one charmingly adorable young man—put them in tantalizingly revealing purple garb—and in his case, impressively reflective gold lame shorts—have them spend the better part of a year working up dance routines featuring 16-inch wheeled kiddie bikes and custom-made velo-props, gather half a hundred cyclists including a good mix of choppers, tall bikes, and fixed gears, throw in a keg or so of beer and homemade fermented yerba maté, and parade together through Seattle’s industrial wasteland to three different locations where, at each, the performers put on a show of two-wheel-themed choreography that blows you away with its charm, precision, and often real poignancy; if this doesn’t make you hoop and holler with happiness, then you must not have been paying attention—or maybe you just need another cup of that maté stuff.

Move over Portland’s Sprockettes; make room Vancouver’s B.C. Clettes, and welcome to the stage Seattle’s very own Bicycle Belles, our town’s homegrown and legendary bicycle dance troupe; yesterday they graced us with three separate routines, each slightly more accomplished than the one before, all polished, precise, and professional, but still ragged enough to be magic and dangerous at the same time.

The first number, a short bit with just five of the team, showcased the Belles’ pinpoint control as they emerged from a tableau and rode taut figure-eights around each other. The second, slightly longer, piece highlighted the troupe’s exuberance with moments where bikes were embraced, intertwined with, and made romance to.

And then finally, the piece de resistance came after sunset as the full company performed a jaw-droppingly impressive work of bicycle theater featuring ambitious production values and properties: each performer carried a glow-in-the-dark “fan” made of half a bicycle wheel, the moments when those fans came together to complete the circle suddenly brought tears to my eyes, joy made manifest, heartwarming, whole, all as one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Regulator Rectifier

I’m not even sure what it means, but chanting it over and over—regulator-rectifier, regulator-rectifier, rectifier-regulator—is what enables me to scale the backside of Graham Avenue as we cross the spine of Seattle the hard way—perpendicularly—from Seward Park, where we’d been swimming right up to the last rays of the nearly midsummer night’s sun; that was a dream to be sure or at least a vision from one: twenty-some pasty white torsos poking from the quicksilver and amber water, beers being launched from shore far more effectively than bottle rockets caught in shoelaces and if this wasn’t enough delight, back it all with the realization that with classes over and grades almost in, the immortal words of Alice Cooper resound, “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes!”

School’s out, not quite forever, but about 90 days until I have to actually think about what clothes I’m going to wear on a given day (before donning pretty much the same outfit anyway) and if last night is any indication of what can be expected before the leaves turn in the fall, then sign me up twice.

Not only did I get to drink tequila out of flask after throwing lake muck at drunks, I also got to sit on bar stool quaffing a cold one after belting out the thematically-apt (for me, anyway) buttrock anthem to that same collection of douchecock sonzabitches, fucking “boosh” as the kids today put it.

The bicycle is freedom, just as it has been every single summer since I was eight years old and I rode all the way from my house to the swimming pool on my Schwinn Typhoon and while in that case, I’m sure I didn’t wear a helmet, I also probably wasn’t as tipsy as I was by the time I started pedaling home last night, ending round one of almost 100 with no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chicken or Egg

Mimi was off on a school camping trip last night so Jen and I got to go out for some midweek drinking and over a couple of margueritas each we got to talking, of course, as parents do when their child is away, about the kid, and Jen allowed that she can’t help seeing herself in some of the behaviors Mimi manifests, which I found somewhat contrary to my own experience, the youngster being a riddle inside of a conundrum to me, if you want to know the truth.

And Jen elaborated that she can even recall specific incidents that had she done something differently, the kid would have turned out differently and that got me to wondering how true that really is and how much effect we really have on the creation of our children’s character when all is said and done.

The question for me is whether our actions towards our progeny create their dispositions or just provide opportunities for those qualities to be revealed; I can’t tell.

My example from my own life is when I was about 8 and I was at the swimming pool with my mom and I wanted show her how I could dive off the high dive; I interrupted an interchange she was having with some lady to tell her to watch, but when I returned to ask her did she see, she merely glared and said, “David, I’m having a conversation here.” At that moment, I remember resolving to take pleasure in my own success and never showing off for her approval again.

But did her (in)action form my character?

Suppose she had watched and when I came back, fawned all over me with praise; I can perfectly well imagine thinking, “Oh my god, this is mortifying; I resolve now to take pleasure in my own success and never show off for her again.”

Different parental action, but the same reaction from child; nature or nurture, probably both.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Died and Gone

Here’s another reason why I find it hard to believe in an afterlife, especially one where you get to sit by the right hand of a supreme being and live in bliss and harmony for all eternity: on today’s ride out to school, the weather couldn’t have been nicer, the scenery more lovely, the bird songs sweeter, nor could I have felt any better and more at peace, even were I reclined beside the Allmighty himself; if there is a heaven, in other words, it’s right here on earth, as I live, not up in the sky (or wherever) after I’m gone.

But as proof that maybe I’m not so sure after all: there was at least one moment as I pedaled along, the dappled sunlight warming my arms, the songs of chickadees and robins tickling my ears, that I did sort of wonder whether I had died and gone to heaven.

At the very least, it did very strongly occur to me that, as my old colleague John Latourell used to put it, “this is the beautiful time, man,” and if it does come to pass, as so many signs point to, that climate change and overpopulation will put an end to so much of the natural beauty we now enjoy, I will recall these days as an older man (assuming I make it that long), as among the best I ever got to experience.

I just finished reading T.C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth, which is set in the year 2025, after human-induced global climate change has devastated pretty much of everything: California experiences monsoons for half the year, drought for the rest; practically all the higher mammals (except humans) in the world are extinct; the only thing thriving is a washed-up pop star apparently modeled on a cross between Bono and Michael Jackson. Human activity has reduced that world to hell; here, today, though, I still get a taste of paradise made real.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ode to Agave

Consider humanity’s greatest inventions: fire, the bicycle, Gutenberg’s printing press, thermoses that know how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold, and Sheldon Brown’s favorite, the pneumatic tire.

All great to be sure, but rounding out the top ten has got to include the marguerita, that delicious concoction of tequila, lime juice, and triple sec liqueur whose charms are legion and whose appeal transcends race, class, gender and, in doing so, offers a model for universal harmony exceeded only by Grateful Dead concerts and Oprah Winfrey sweeps-week shows.

I happen to be sipping one such illustrious libation even as I type, enjoying the soothing balm it offers to the pains and disappointments of the busy work week just past. With each swallow of the delightful elixir, my cares and woes melt away concurrently with the ice in my glass and if any further proof be needed of the drink’s effectiveness, it’s even made me appreciate the turn of a phrase here and there in this particular edition of this increasingly irregular spewing forth of 327 words.

My version of the drink is quite simple: three parts tequila—100 percent agave is de rigeur, and my favorite brand by far El Tesoro de Don Miguel—two parts lime juice—fresh-squeezed is highly preferred, but I’m not averse, especially if it’s a party, to using bottled, as long as it’s not doctored with anything else—and one part triple sec—fancy margueritas call for Cointreau, but to my taste that’s overkill; anyway, I think I prefer the slightly metallic flavor of the cheaper liqueur; the good stuff overwhelms the tequila in my not-so-humble opinion.

I throw everything into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, dump in a couple tablespoons of sugar and shake vigorously. The mixture, ice and all, is then transferred to a rocks glass where it then begins its journey into my stomach and eventually, frontal lobes, to be repeated as necessary, like right now.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Impoverished Life

It has been freakishly beautiful here in Seattle this past week or so: bright blue skies, temperatures in the 70s and low 80s, a gentle breeze to cool things off and send the fragrances of blooming flowers wafting about; plus, we’re into the long days of the year: it’s light by 5:00 in the morning and the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00; anyone in his or her right mind (and who isn’t sitting in his basement typing away like a sorry loser at a 327-word essay that makes not a whit of difference in the world) should take every opportunity available these days to get outside and bask in the glory of nature’s beauty.

And indeed, most people are doing that: you see them everywhere—on the street, at the park, sitting in traffic with their windows rolled down—a veritable riot of sun-worshippers worshipping this amazing weather that we suffer through 300 days of cloud cover and rain a year to finally get to experience.

But what’s weird to me—and you knew I was getting here eventually—is how many of those same folks aren’t even looking up at the sky, the trees, or even the person next to them. Instead, they’re all staring at the little glowing boxes in their hands, squinting their eyes to read the tiny screens, missing out on Mother Nature’s abundance all around them to focus instead on another little machine that tells them what to do.

Of course, this is my requisite spring rant, where I complain about these kids today and their damn cell phones and end up sounding like the grouchy old man I continue to become more of with each passing year, but so be it: why in the world anyone would want to pay attention to their electronic leash when they could instead be awed by the awe-inspiring beauty of spring 2009, is beyond me, although, I’m still here in the basement, aren’t I?