Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once a Year

For 364 days in a row, Derrick is despicable and I’m a sucky dad, but we both get the last Sunday in February to come through, he with organizing the best pirate bike ride of the year and me in providing an opportunity for my child to notice that, unlike her, there are human beings on the planet who aren’t amazed that I can feed and clothe myself, but even more than that, everyone got to enjoy a late spring day although three more weeks of winter remain, and besides, we totally cleaned up in the prize department, coming home with a swell wicker bike basket and several recycled plastic totes, which—even if they do end up just hanging on a hook in the basement, will always remind me of a day I’ll always cherish and never forget.

Thanks to Chase for rescuing us from downtown Winslow, to which we’d ridden, having lost our special FHR map, but mostly thanks to the cycling gods who not only graced us with just about the perfect day for a ride, but also made sure me and the kid got our comeuppance for taking the shortcut with not only the extra couple of blocks searching around but also a dropped timing chain twice.

Not that it mattered: the whole thing couldn’t have been better, from milling around beneath the viaduct to booing David Hiller for making the neons get on the boat before us to flying downhill again and again to not once having to get off and walk while ascending and then, there we were, in a perfectly charming little park with a practically endless prize pile and not nearly enough beer but oodles of chili and it wasn’t even a problem we had to wait extra long for the ferry since it meant that most of us were there, slightly dazed in the sundeck aft, savoring the one day a year every other one should be like.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wasting Away

I rented one of those “Rug Doctor” rug-cleaning machines from the supermarket today: $26.95 plus $12.95 for the cleaning solution. Was it worth it?

The water that came out of the thing afterwards was filthy and I guess the rug looks less drab than it did before I started, but I’m skeptical that I really got my money’s worth. For the same amount of cash, I could have bought a half-gallon of Jim Beam and then wouldn’t have worried about whether the floor was clean or not at all.

At the bike swap today, I bought two Shimano Mega-range cassettes for six bucks apiece; that’s not bad; I’ve paid as much as twenty dollars for one in the past, and I think they retail for even more than that. Still, they’ll probably sit in my parts bin for years; I may end up getting rid of them myself at an even cheaper price at some future bicycle garage sale.

I don’t like wasting money, but I go through these periods—like this—where it just seems the stuff just pours through my fingers like sand; apparently, I’m doing my part to keep the economy in recovery, whether I mean to or not.

And then there’s just stupid waste: library fines, late fees for my business license, finance charges on my credit card I could have avoided.

It’s just tiresome, annoying, and makes me sick of being a grownup. Oh, for the days when all I needed was $11.99 for three LPs at—what was that hippie record shop called—“The People’s Store?”

I bought a lottery ticket even though the jackpot’s less than the odds of winning, a bad bet to be sure, but I probably won’t mind if I manage to hit the $93 million dollar jackpot.

I don’t really think that it’s my destiny in life to win the lottery, although I know I’d be a good winner; I’m already pretty good at wasting money.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Going for Gold

I first realized the Olympics theme when Lee pointed out, as we were descending the steep drop and then immediately ascending in the bowl-shaped alleyway behind Eastlake, that this could be the half-pipe event. (Actually, that’s not quite true: somebody earlier had said that handing over a lit joint while bike-riding away from Westlake counted as a 400-relay passing the baton kind of moment, although that's Summer Games.)

But that’s when I really got into the Olympic spirit, and after that, for the rest of the evening, I couldn’t help noticing the connections everywhere.

Rolling down the switchbacks on Lake Washington Boulevard to the water was like the bobsled run. Getting into a good rhythm farther on down the road reminded me of cross-country skiing. Mixing up Genessee and McLellan and overshooting the more direct route south was my nod to Bode or Lindsey crossing their tips and missing a gate in the giant slalom. Even the back-to-back mechanical stops were able to be construed as our very own version of the biathalon. Or maybe curling.

Joeball had the podium taken care of: bronze monkey cocktails, in a park whose central sculpture filled in for the Olympic flame, then a quick stop by the Silver Cloud Inn, before finishing the night at Goldies.

Clever, huh?

I insisted we augment the runner-up medal by doing shots of silver tequila at the bar; fortunately, nobody proposed we follow that up by pounding Goldshlager.

But the peak Olympic moment for me was when a dozen or so of us lined up for a two-lap relay footrace on the tight path around the Martin Luther King Memorial Park fountain. “On your mark, get set, go!” and a gaggle of Apollo Ohnos were tearing around the short-track, speedskating on bike shoe cleats and jostling for position. And while I didn’t medal, I did, at least, end up vertical and managed, by tapping in my much faster partner, Chase, to not get lapped.

Talk about golden.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Jen and I threw a big Valentine’s Day aftermath/Welcome to Seattle party for our friend Beth on Saturday night, and so, along with my duties as host behind the bar, I also invited interested parties downstairs to the basement vaporium to partake of plant-based intoxicants to go along with the distilled and fermented spirits folks were enjoying aboveground.

Not surprisingly, given the distractions attending that subterranean activity, as well as the fact that we were all fucking hilarious to each other after several minutes of indulging, none of us noticed the group of four or five children descending the stairs and then proclaiming loudly how stinky it was down here. Naturally, we responded that oh yes, the mold is really bad and so we’re lighting incense, but just as naturally, no 11 and 12 year-olds worth their inbred skepticism were buying that, as evidenced not only by their laughter and rolled eyes, but by the little note I found next to my device the next time I brought a group down to use it that read something like, “Only losers need weed to have a good time.”

We all had a good chuckle about that, reminding ourselves that none of actually need the stuff to have fun, but that it sure makes it easier to do so, ha-ha.

More seriously, of course, one can’t help but realize that some sort of conversation is in order, but my fellow parents, like me, agreed that we’d all postpone it until some other day when it becomes entirely unavoidable.

I’m looking forward to being honest with my kid at some point; I spent too much of my adolescence hiding my tastes in mind-altering from my parents to be willing to spend my dotage hiding them from my kid, but seventh grade still seems to me a bit young.

I believe that honesty is ultimately the best policy when it comes to this subject, but delaying the truth doesn’t hurt, either.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spreading the Love

It was like the good old days: Derrick and Ben arguing interminably about where to go and what route to take until finally the exasperated angry hippy growls something about just fucking following him, hops on his bike, and before you know it, people uninterested in being run over by cars are getting dropped behind those with more of an appetite for running lights, but eventually, everyone more or less clumps up and then we’re climbing and climbing and then climbing a little bit more until the bluff in Discovery Park appears under a starry sky and a perfect upturned grin of a moon with the Puget Sound spread out before us like an indigo desert and people are milling about, accepting the club President’s kudos for arriving, as planned, in time for a beer before the locks close, and then, even more surprisingly, leaving in time, too, having polished off the half-rack and quarter that Specialist Sean(welcome back!) huffed up there in his pack, we’re walking across the water and then going uphill some more until at last we find ourselves at the first stop in our tour of bars that have 86’ed .83, only this time, they love us so much that the bartender shares with us her tale of another drunken bike gang that showed up a couple years ago and got drunk until 2:00 in the morning, (leaving out, I guess, the part about one of its members peeing on the bar) and really, the only reason there’s any urgency at all to leave is that the fiancé of the girl Derrick has just exchanged motorboats with shows up and besides it’s time to head downtown for white-boy hiphop, but not before, for me, anyway, a ride through the zoo smell on Aurora and then across the bridge and a new route down to Dexter and finally, after a couple songs, back uphill once more and I’m home, all aglow with bike love.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Had the strangest dream last night, the gist of which was that after you die, you can time travel through your life, using your former body to do so. Essentially, you’re able to visit any event you lived through, just so long as you don’t run into the “actual” you, who is going through your life linearly.

In the dream, I discovered this by accidentally doing just that: I happened upon my younger self with a group of former colleagues at a conference or something at some hotel. Imagine trying to convince your younger self that your older self was you: in the dream, the “linear” me looked askance at the time-traveling version and quickly moved on.

As strange as this sounds, I halfway believe it may be how things work. Once, for instance, when we were living in Paris in 1988, I saw this old guy across the aisle on the Metro and had this vivid flash that he was me some fifty years or so in the future. And I came to believe in the few minutes we sat across from one another, that he somehow knew what I was thinking and that indeed, it was the case.

The universe is an awfully big place and there’s probably way more to it than meets the everyday eye; I tend to be quite skeptical about the supernatural, but doesn’t mean I think that only the empirically-provable is real.

In my dream last night, there was a part where I was being counseled by some sort of disembodied wise spirits to not resist the weirdness that was happening to me. They “told” me that I had to keep my eyes closed until the sun came up in order to make my time-traveling abilities “stick.” It seemed like good advice at the time and even if it doesn’t end up enabling me to visit my life after I die, at least it contributed to a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trailer Biz

I’ve taken the plunge into becoming a full-fledged capitalist.

After months of planning and procrastinating, yesterday, I officially (that is, monetarily) kicked off my venture into the “Green Economy,” commissioning twenty, count ‘em twenty, Haulin’ Colin trailers, which I hope to sell in the coming year for more than it’s costing to make and market them, thereby earning a profit on the sweat of my (well, mostly Colin’s) brow, and the risk of my capital.

My long-term vision is a trailer for every bike.

The dream is that when you get into cycling, you buy a bike, a lock, a helmet, and a trailer. With something like 15 million bicycles sold every year in the US, that’s a lot of haulin’, Colin.

Realistically, if I can move the twenty in under a year, I’ll be happy.

But we’ll see; at the very least, I’ll end up, when all is said and done, with by far and away the coolest fleet of bicycle trailers in the world. That ought to be good for starting a human-powered delivery service if all else fails.

I have lots of half-formed ideas about how to market the rigs. I plan to hit up all the bike shops in town, that's for sure. And I’d like to approach places like the UW and Boeing to explore the possibility of fleet sales.

At least a couple of trailers will be available for rent, and I hope to have some kind of special deal with and/or for places like Bike Works and the Bikery.

And I definitely want to figure out how to tow a car using two trailers; that’s just too good an image to pass up.

Retail is something of a mystery to me; pretty much the only experience I have selling things was an abortive attempt to be a small-time pot dealer in tenth grade—which ended when I smoked up all my inventory.

No danger of that this time, at least.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lived to Tell

I sure was glad tehschkott broke his wrist (apparently) the second time the Karate Monkey ate shit on the slick train tracks on Harbor Island, because the first time it happened, he easily could have had his head smashed like a soggy melon by an 18-wheeler.

It wasn’t even really that close, but all the elements were there: the bike skittering sideways toward the back wheels of the semi-trailer, his helmetless noggin heading straight for the massive tires, the driver of the huge rig completely oblivious to the drama unfolding right behind his cab; I could envision it perfectly and was very glad it only happened in my mind’s eye and not the real ones behind my glasses.

That would really have made me feel bad about pushing to ride around my favorite man-made island in all the Duwamish waterway. As it was, the place was accursed enough, causing, in addition to at least two spills, two flat tires, one a spectacular tube rupturing, again precipitated by those infernal tracks.

Still, we did manage to find ourselves at one point atop a parking garage, admiring a spectacular view of downtown I’ve never seen before, so for me, at least, given that the flat Gods chose not to single me out for punishment, and, more importantly, that I didn’t have to be traumatized by the sight (and the sound, which really would have been unforgettable) of a human head being flattened by the back wheels of a petroleum tanker, I count the evening as a genuine success.

There was enough rain to keep the crowd down to just bike nerds, though not enough to really be miserable and although we were unable to lure either Joeball or Henry to the Skylark or Nine Pound Hammer respectively, “Uncle” Ito did show up at the first place all well-groomed and sober in the Jetta—which frankly, if you wanna know the truth, was a sight even scarier than tehsckott’s first tumble.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This year, time of year, at dusk in Bothell, a vast murder of crows descends.

From every corner of the sky, thousands upon thousands of birds congregate, cawing and flapping their wings as they alight on trees, telephone wires, and buildings. It’s straight out of Hitchcock, even though, for the most part, the birds seem benign or at least uninterested in pecking your eyes out; still, it’s pretty freaky, albeit in a wonder-of-nature kind of way.

Which reminds me that Jen and I went to see the grunge-band pioneers Mudhoney the other night; we got free tickets through a guy I know who works for New Belgium Brewery, who were sponsoring the show in celebration of the rollout of their new beer, Ranger IPA; (the reason for the association being that, like the crows, Mudhoney makes one hell of a racket.) I enjoyed tying a flannel shirt around my waist and watching people crowd-surf the moshpit in front of the stage; it felt like 1991 all over again (even though, at that time, by far and away my favorite band was post-punk legends, fIREHOSE.

It seemed, from the crowd reaction, that a Grunge revival is in the cards. It’s been about 20 years since the heyday of the sound, so I guess the time is ripe. Think about it: punk, which arguably was a kind of roots rock revival got big more or less two decades after Elvis and Buddy Holly hit the scene; in the late eighties, the hairdo metal bands were arguably doing a kind of neo-sixties thing; in the nineties, it was the seventies all over again.

Fortunately, I still have a handful of Pendleton shirts, so my wardrobe’s taken care of; in a sort of scary way—but less scary than the crows—these shirts are actually from the Grunge era, although all of them came from vintage stores at the time.

Everything old is new once more, except me and the birds.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


The most generous people I know, Don and Colleen Stevens, owners of Bill’s Off-Broadway, threw the funnest Superbowl party I’ve ever been to that didn’t include the Steelers; I showed up right about the time some lady was singing “God Bless America” and stayed until right after Drew Brees took a knee in “victory formation” sealing the Saints 31-17 victory over the Colts, an outcome I was delighted to welcome, although the difference between this year’s game—which was all about celebration—and last year’s—where life and death was at stake—was palpable, at least to me, when I touched my belly and didn’t feel any of the butterflies I experienced in 2009 and 2007 when the Black n’ Gold were involved.

Instead, I got to enjoy the game and the festivities, which included something like 180 pounds of crabs boiled up in 60 gallon pots with potatoes, corn, onions, artichokes, and sausage, along with spice from a package that Harley said was called “Smack Yer Momma,” but which, however you might refer to it, made the spuds and kernels taste like the warm inside of a night in the French Quarter.

I watched the crustaceans being dropped into the roiling boil; frankly they didn’t seem all that upset about it; still, I preferred snacking on the boiled tubers than the overheated sea creatures, and more to the point, enjoyed washing down whatever I was consuming with one after another or mid-day beers, celebrating the closest thing we have to a secular holiday in this, the most Christian of developed nations in the 21st century West.

This time last year, I was still fielding calls from folks who thought it made sense to congratulate me for rooting hard for the winning side; tonight, I got to high-five a couple guys who were as much invested in today’s outcome as I was in last year’s, and as I will be next year, when the Steelers win again.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Waffle Ride Five

I thought I stayed pretty late; (it was after midnight when I got home and my clothes smelled reassuringly of breakfast), but apparently, I missed the real shenanigans where people got doused with batter and thrown out of bars; even so, it was a night as full of hilarity as stomachs were full of waffles and as trash cans are of empty containers this morning at that odd little corner of the universe where electricity flows all year long for, as teh Jobies pointed out, “recreational purposes,” an end admirably pursued on this, the Fifth Annual .83 Waffle (The Empire Strikes Back) Ride, the current version, a bit earlier in February than in years previous, but still so hungrily anticipated that no one could possibly have held off another week, even in spite of the nationwide Eggo shortage.

I managed to catch onto the ride just as the line of—I’ll say about 60—bikes laden with fixin’s, toppings, and intoxicants—began pouring through the I-90 tunnel, riders screaming echoes east to west and then there was that heartwarming sight of taillights dotting the entire length of the bridge before all of a sudden a picnic shelter fully lit up from inside and an eight-pack of waffle irons steaming and a pitcher of Manhattans pouring and pork strips frying and some sort of scary-looking sausages spinning slowly on an even scarier mini hot-dog circus cart.

And eventually, of course, people were hanging upside-down from the rafters and spitting bourbon at the fire and a Frisbee-shaped waffle was turning to mush in the rain and then, just as miraculously as things appeared, they eventually were packed up and, although I bet the maintenance workers are scratching their heads this morning over what went down last night, I’m sure the imprint on my memory is more than ours upon the park, though less than the iron upon the batter making those sweet squares that you fill and fill you.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Retarded Morons

So, I guess Sarah Palin is all bent out of shape because Rahm Emanuel said that liberal groups thinking of running health care-related ads against Democratic lawmakers were “fucking retarded.” The ex-governor of Alaska equated his use of the term to using the racial slur “nigger” and called for President Obama to fire him. In doing so, she once again trotted out references to her own child with Down syndrome, apparently unaware of or unconcerned about the irony of exploiting the kid’s mental handicap in the cause of ending the exploitation of the mentally challenged.

Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and the Las Vegas chamber of commerce are all exercised because they perceived that Obama had slighted Sin City when he said that in tough fiscal times, you don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas. This proves once again, it seems, that he hates America.

And then finally, I just read on the internetz that some people who must have way too much time on their hands—or too many Twinkies on their plates, I dunno—don’t like it that Michelle Obama publically expressed some concern over her daughters’ weights; supposedly this is tantamount to condemning them to anorexia and bulimia for the rest of their lives.

People, get a fucking grip!

Didn’t you ever hear “stick and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me?”

Are people really so delicate these days that an offhand—and all right, admittedly insensitive—remark makes them respond so peavishly?

That’s some sanctimonious shit, if you ask me, especially from a woman known for snarkiness and a guy infamous for patronizing remarks about a black person.

Now, I realize that in my meta-commentary on their commentary, I’m probably committing the same sin I’m accusing them of: blowing something someone said entirely out of proportion to make some point that’s basically unrelated to what the person said originally.

This has got to stop; it’s just fucking gay.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

So Lovely

It sure was pretty riding home from school this afternoon: the setting sun’s rays glinting yellow and red off the smooth-as-glass lake, the weather warm and dry enough that I didn’t need a raincoat, the early February false spring light enough that I got all the way home without having to turn on my headlamp.

If this is what global climate change has in store for us in the Northwest, it’s not going to be too bad—except for the millions of climate refugees we’ll have to assimilate into our population—and even though I realize the weather this winter has more to do with the El Nino conditions than the long-term anthropogenic effects on the season, I can almost see why those crazy climate change deniers go off on their denial schtick: it’s hard to get very exercised about the immanent end of the world when it’s so nice outside as it’s happening.

I guess it’s just another aspect of the human condition: we’re not very good at taking the long view; in fact, we’re probably hard-wired not to. After all, if we really accepted the inevitable fact that we’re fucking doomed as a result of our own behaviors, we’d all probably just lose it, and all would simply go to hell, starting, no doubt, with the global economy. I know I’d stop paying my student loans off, that’s for sure.

So instead of worrying about what’s going to happen—probably in my lifetime, but almost certainly in my daughter’s—I just pedaled along, enjoying the beautiful weather and admiring the flocks of robins, I think, that were perched all over the trees between Lake Forest Park and Matthews Beach.

And I consoled myself slightly with the knowledge that if it is only a matter of time before it all goes to hell, at least I’m not contributing to the incipient demise by driving and even better, I won’t be in a car when it happens.