Sunday, March 28, 2010


It’s pretty easy to have a ridiculously fun 53rd birthday.

All you have to do is spend about a month overplanning an approximately 22-mile prime-themed checkpoint-style alleycat bike race around your hometown that takes riders up some really steep hills and require them to do random things like eat a bowl of pasta primavera and do a drawing for an elementary reader primer.

Meanwhile, you contact a bunch of freakishly generous sponsors, especially New Belgium Brewing Company, and Pryme Gear, but also great folks like Surly Bikes, Madrona Alehouse, Bicycle Fixation, Swrve Cycling, Haulin’ Colin Trailers, Drunk Cyclist, Urban Velo, Swift Industries,Shaun Deller Designs, Chrome Messenger Bags,Momentum Magazine, Cetma Racks,the Skylark Cafe, and DiNotte Lights, who come through in over-the-top ways with prizes for contestants and libations for all involved.

Next, you make certain the day of the race is absolutely beautiful, one mild and sunny afternoon sandwiched between days of rain on either side.

Then, you entice more than forty people to sign up for the event, making sure each one gets a customized shot glass and a homemade Deb’s Lunch powerbar.

Simultaneously, you enlist the support of friends and family members who kindly offer to man various checkpoints despite the goofiness and questionable legal status of several.

To start the race, you simply require riders to do a shot of Jack Daniels Old Number Seven or for non-drinkers, a jigger of black bean juice.

Afterwards, you hightail it home to pick up your Haulin’ Colin trailer full of prizes and pedal quickly to your local alehouse where you sip on a delicious Ranger IPA to await the competitors’ arrival.

You have to be humbled by the winning time of DJ Strokey, who averaged nearly 23 miles an hour, but even more by folks like DFL Holly, who took almost 3 and a half hours to finish.

Finally, you just party till the place closes and miraculously wake up in the morning with your wallet, keys, and laptop not even lost.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Race Day 2010

About an hour to go before I head over to 2020 Cycle to get started with sign-ups for this year’s birthday race, the 327 Words Prime Time Trial, and I think I’m pretty much all set up other than the part where I leave home, get about halfway there and realize I’ve forgotten something key, like the manifests or spoke cards, and rush home breathing heavily, only to find out I had the item in my bag all along, so I’ve got a few minutes to kill and rather than do housework or something productive, here I am tapping away 327 words worth, an appropriate enough pastime I’d say given that today IS the day that gave inspiration to my preferred form of essay.

I’m excited about this year’s race; the weather is really cooperating—right now it’s about sixty and sunny—and I think the course, while it may be a just a tad long, will offer riders a reasonably satisfying course around town.

The signature component, in my experience (and I’ve ridden the course twice so that no one can give me shit about the hills) is the steep uphill from the Duwamish to the south end of West Seattle, along a rode called, appropriately enough, Highland Park Avenue. But there should be plenty of other reasonably amusing points, as well; I think, for instance, people will get a kick out of going into Haulin’ Colin’s workshop and eating pasta primavera which, if I do say so myself, tastes pretty good.

As usual, I’ve probably overthought and overplanned the event, but that’s part of the fun. It’s a heck of a lot easier not having the Conference Bike in the mix; it’s kind of shame we won’t have it around to ride, but it’s a great relief not to have to deal with it.

I’m ready now to go get started. I hope people show up and have at least as much fun as me.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Failure = Success

When I said, fairly hilariously, I might add, that Lake City would remain my “Beef Wellington,” of course I meant my “Waterloo,” but really, this wasn’t quite accurate either because that term is synonymous with defeat, and even though I failed in my ongoing attempt to see the ride arrive that the Rimrock Steakhouse, I still count the evening as a rousing success: there was plenty of riding on dirt and gravel, booze was drunk outside (in a fucking gale, practically), and we overtook a watering hole that’s skeezy enough, I’m sure, to be listed in the Anthropologist’s big book of dives.

So, rather, I will continue to view the so-called “Lake Shitty” as my Moby Dick, or were I the Angry Hippy, as my Richmond Beach, always out there, beckoning with its charms, or lack thereof, an aspiration to be embraced someday, somehow, another fucking thing for my goddamn bucket list.

I can see it, though: of a summer night, after a swim at Matthews Beach, the sun still not quite completely set as we pedal in the warm crepuscular glow, arriving almost before you know it, a far cry from the death march it would have been last night, even though it was obvious that as long as we kept heading north, things wouldn’t be too bad.

The prospect of return, however, was too daunting and the promise of the magic corkscrew ride through Cowen Park too alluring and thus it was the Knarr, appearing unwashed, like Josephine taking Napoleon’s alleged advice, “Ne te lave pas, je reviens” to welcome us home, or a reasonable approximation thereof.

It turns out that 53 is a pretty big number; less than half that many ounces of tequila were consumed, but I don’t count that as a failure, either, because it means more than half that many are left, which seems to me the apt metaphor for “failure;” it’s simply success that has yet come to pass.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vibrators and Hammocks

At the pre-funk, somebody—I think it was stoner Adam (no, not that one, the other one!)—mentioned he didn’t think he’d ever seen me on a Tuesday night ride. I explained that the occasion was spring break and recalled that I’m pretty sure the last time I made the early-week meet-up was, as a matter of fact, this very same week last year.

In any case, it was a beautiful evening for a ride and I was surprised so few came out, especially after I expressed the hope that folks would assist me in gathering up a few additional prizes for the Prime Time Trial, thanks to the generous offer of free vibrators from The Love Zone “adult” boutique in Ballard, although it seemed to me more like Crown Hill.

Megan, the clerk at the store, who unlike every other porno shop employee I’ve ever seen wasn’t a creepy meth-head guy wasn’t phased at all by the arrival of half a dozen bike riders clutching coupons for the free giveaway, although she did decline to let me use the restroom, saying that “due to the nature of our business, we can’t allow people access,” which, upon reflection, made perfect sense, especially when you noticed the large display for a featured lubricant product called “Jack Jelly.”

Eww, although naturally, I had to buy a sample to throw in the prize pile for Saturday.

Afterwards, we rode to the Golden City bar where the drinks were stiff and a guy sort of tried to pick a fight with Bill because he didn’t order a lemon wedge to go with his hefeweisen.

And then it was on to the area north of the dog park at Golden Gardens where Alec was setting up his homemade hammock to sleep suspended outside. I thought it might make the vibrator more desirable as a prize if word got out that it spent the night with him, but ultimately, thought better of it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Glove

Treated myself to an extravagant pre-birthday gift today, something I’ve been coveting for years: a Nokona brand baseball glove.

In the spirit of sparing little expense on a recreational item that represents the height of its form, it’s kind of like buying a Rivendell bicycle, and in fact, the first time I ever heard of Nokona was through an article about the company in a Rivendell Reader, although it might have been a Bridgestone catalogue, I’m not sure.

In any case, it’s a beautiful mitt and smells just like I remember my hand smelling back when I was twelve years old and spent many an hour oiling up my Rawlings, a statement that sounds kind of salacious and is, I guess, in a certain pre-pubescent way.

I rode my bike to the sporting goods store, just like I did when I purchased my first relatively nice fielder’s mitt from that cramped store in downtown Pittsburgh that carried, among other items, the fabled Wilson A2000, which cost, at the time, the exorbitant price of something like forty dollars, which seemed crazy to me since my “finest in the field” was only like half that.

And while I wasn’t squandering my paper route saving this time around, this was money I could have put towards home improvement or my daughter’s education or even some much-needed new socks, but I’m justifying it by noting that it’s probably the last baseball glove I’ll ever buy, which is a kind of sobering thought if you think about it, so I guess I won’t.

Nokona advises you break in the glove mainly by using it, although they also recommend treating it with petroleum jelly. This is a lot less ambitious than painting it with neat’s foot oil, which is how I was taught to do it way back when.

Just like then, though, I stick a ball in the pocket, wrap the glove in rubber bands and sleep with it under my pillow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Break

Winter quarter comes screeching to a halt; grades are mostly turned in and suddenly, I’ve got time on my hands—enough, anyway, to take yoga classes, practice softball, and drink beer in the afternoon while watching a college basketball game—and so now, at dusk, I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

I’ve already ridden the tall bike and slapped the bass in the basement a bit; chronicling this is a way to kill another twenty minutes or so; maybe we’ll go out for dinner in a while to fill up more hours along with our bellies.

I started re-reading John Fowles’ novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which I last perused more than three decades ago, and one of the passages that struck me right from the start was a reflection by the narrator that in the mid-1860s, it wasn’t like today, where everyone feels he or she doesn’t have enough hours in the day; rather, most people found the challenge of having too many far more daunting. With so much leisure time to spend, your average gentleman had basically two choices (and I paraphrase): to be a claret-swilling fox-hunter or an inward-looking stuff-collector.

I find myself somewhere between the two; the thrill of the chase doesn’t really thrill me, although I could probably get into the claret-swilling thing; and while I’m certainly something of a navel-gazer, I’d prefer not to amass a collection—except when it comes to bikes, I guess.

I look forward, though, to the relative calm of the next seven days or so. At this point, all roads, pretty much, lead to the 327 Word Prime Time Trial next Saturday; I’ve got the spoke cards cut out and the route pretty much decided upon.

Sometime between now and then I’ve got to ride the entire thing just to make sure I’m not asking too much—or too little. That’s what spring break is all about: just the right amount of leisure.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bus Nap

Most days I ride the bus to school at some point. It makes me wonder why and how anyone could drive.

I almost inevitably fall asleep about twenty to twenty-five minutes into it; there’s too little to do, and whatever I’m reading makes my eyelids heavy.

Pretty soon, I notice we’re not where we were before.

I’m usually relieved to find out that not nearly as much time has passed as I had thought. But it’s a guilty pleasure—not that I feel any guilt about it.

Before I think it, though, I’m in Kenmore, then downtown Bothell; where did those moments go?

Who doesn’t want life to be like this? Who imagines the unimaginable? Why take any of this seriously, or not?

One point not to be missed: I rely on the bus nap. At 3:31 in the morning, while I lie in bed planning the days ahead, I’m comforted by 4:17 that I’ll get the sleep back on the way to work, more or less. I love you, bus nap!

Today, I slept the opposite of usual, crashing out hard on the way home, after giving up in defeat to the headwind or just my eagerness to get home in time to do some things before the Husky basketball game, the most urgent of which was to participate by sending some old shoes to a shoe company, and the dream I remember was memorable, even though I can’t remember it.

In the end, everything worked out, just as I knew it would when I was floating in and out of consciousness on Sound Transit route 522 in the morning. I worry that someday the driver won’t slam on his brake fast enough to avoid being cut off by that lady talking on her cellphone and my bike will get crunched against the back bumper of an SUV, but it hasn’t happened yet, so as long as I keep napping, nothing’s worrisome enough to wake me.

Monday, March 15, 2010


One of my favorite moments on my bike commute is when I pass over Highway 520 in Montlake, by Lake Washington Boulevard, near the University of Washington.

It’s not because of the natural beauty of the place nor does it have anything to do with the fact that it usually marks the time on my ride when (around this time of year) I finally start to warm up.

Nor do the fond feelings emanate from memories I have of the place, like the time I attended an impromtu art show there.

Rather, my affection for the spot has primarily to do with the view I get each morning, as I look east across the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and see a vast line of automobiles, all stuck in traffic, inching along, brake lights blinking, as drivers creep towards their destinations, en-coffined in their cars, ha-ha, too bad for them, while I enjoy the lovely out-of-doors, smelling the jasmine and daffodils, the pine and cedar, and the filing my ears with the sounds of songbirds greeting the day.

Plus, I get to be all self-satisfied that I’m doing my part to save the planet while all those self-centered bastards in their gas-guzzling deathtraps are hastening the demise of the world while they listen to corporate rock n’ roll and cheap commercial hip-hop on their overpriced car audio systems.

Or something like that.

Mostly, I’m just glad it’s not me trapped there like they are. It’s all too reminiscent of when I lived in LA some years ago and would drive my seven miles to work every morning on the Santa Monica Freeway and seeing those six lanes of traffic backed-up on both directions would just absolutely annihilate any sense whatsoever you might have of being a unique and meaningful individual in the world; rather it became all-too-apparent that you were just another ant in the anthill waiting for the can of Zippo to be squirted and lit aflame.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Haulin' Colin Trailer Prototype

I picked up the prototype trailer from Haulin’ Colin today and it’s absolutely stunning.

Major bling: the decision to go with diamond plate for the trailer bed was definitely the way to go, even if it made materials a tad more expensive.

Colin says the rig looks like a fire engine; he’s right—I’d like to get a Dalmation to sit in the thing for our publicity photos.

On the way home from the Bike Swap, where I picked the prototype up, I had four or five people stop to comment on it; on guy said that I ought to be able to sell “a gajillion” of the things.

Would be nice.

The trailer holds special appeal, I think, for people living on or close to the street; two of the people who’s eyes boggled at the thing seemed to be coveting it as a solution to their struggles with homelessness. I’d love for the gubment to buy tons of them to give to folks as a way to get their lives together; not the first target audience, but in the long-term, I can’t think of a better use for them.

I’ve got to get some good pictures taken now to start creating and advertisement and business cards and the like. While I do believe the units will “sell themselves,” I’ve probably got to offer a little bit in the way of assistance.

Retail price is going to be set at $750.00, with free shipping. In the Seattle area, I hope to be able to offer free delivery, ideally by bike!

I’m fretting a bit about where to store the units when they’re all done; I suppose the best thing would be that they’re all pre-sold so that I don’t have to worry about where to put them at all.

If that’s going to happen, though, I’d better get on it; problem is, I’d rather ride around town with the prototype than sit indoors and do work.

Friday, March 12, 2010


For me, it was a very full day.

I taught a class. I ate lunch in a restaurant. I got to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Naomi Tutu, talk about a South African proverb that she translated as “A person is a person through other people.”

Then I went to one bar and watched the Husky basketball team play a pitiful first half of basketball, which was sort of the metaphor for the evening: slow starting.

At Bill’s Off-Broadway, though, where I knew someone, the team, and the evening woke up. By the time the favorites had taken care of business, I was ready for the evening’s main event, the deportation ride.

I never quite got a hold of the English theme at the Rat and Raven, but I appreciated the attempt to engage in what just the other day I learned is referred to as “glassing.” It was fun imagining that one more pitcher would make things last longer, and I amused myself by trying to catch up to the evening’s hilarity, until I got taken aside and made privy to the signature event of the evening, a prank so diabolical you just had to laugh, even if it happened to you and it took a little more effort than expected on all sides.

But then the same thing occurred again at 22 Doors when exuberance won out and ultimately, buyer’s remorse was rejected except by the sellers—which is exactly what Dr. Tutu was talking about: the way in which our oppression of others oppresses us.

Still, it’s kinda funny when it happens to someone else.

Which seems to me the human condition, too: you want to be part of something and unique at the same time; you want to be noticed and invisible simultaneously; everything you do to other people you are doing to yourself, as free and whole as you allow others to be is how free and whole you can be yourself.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Drink Up

I love this headline in the Times today:

Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight

Now there’s a diet plan I could get behind. Unfortunately, the study also suggests it doesn’t exactly work that way for men; guys tend to drink AND eat; gals, apparently, drink INSTEAD of eating.

Actually, that should be no surprise; Cosmopolitans don’t go nearly as well with pizza as does beer.

Frankly, I’m skeptical of all of these studies that come out all the time about the relationship between one activity of another and weight gain or loss. Pretty much the only thing that people do that I can imagine makes that much of a difference in whether you pack on the pounds or not is eating.

Here’s my under-funded study’s result: the more food you consume, the more weight you gain. Now make sure and give me a 10 million dollar NSF grant to research that; I’m sure I’ll also find that people who sit around a lot watching television and pounding Cheetos tend to get heavier than those who don’t.

I must say, in defense of the study I started out making fun of, I’ve seen those results in my own life. Sometimes, when I go out bike-riding and beer-drinking, on those nights when we end up somewhere that doesn’t have fried potatoes on the menu, and I spend the entire evening getting all my calories in liquid form, when I weigh myself the next morning, I’m at the lower end of my usual heaviness scale. That’s when I think the all-beer diet could work pretty well.

Unfortunately, those are also usually the days I feel hungover enough that a double-fried egg sandwich and a can of coke make an especially satisfying breakfast and so any slimming effect of the previous night is completely eradicated before lunch the following day.

Not to worry; a couple more drinks and I may not lose weight, but by that time, at least, who cares?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Works Out Sometimes

How weary I was after a long day at school! (Actually two schools; I taught at the UW-Seattle in the morning and then headed out to Cascadia for an afternoon class.)

When I unlocked my bike and started riding away from the Bothell campus, I thought I’d only ride to Lake Forest Park before hopping on the bus—if that; had the 522 heading south appeared before at that time, I might even have boarded right then.

But it was so nice out, albeit a bit chilly: there were fat clouds overhead and an inky-blue sky as the sun began to set; by the time I arrived at the spot at which I’d transfer from two wheels to eight were I going to do so, I didn’t feel like getting on the bus at all and most of the sleepiness I’d been feeling had been replaced by something more like anticipation of the route ahead.

When I got to Montlake a light breeze seemed to be pushing me forward, even though I couldn’t tell it from the leaves; perhaps I was just feeling strong—for me, anyway.

Then it began to snow: little bb-sized “flakes” rained down, nature playing a funny sort of combinatory trick; I had to laugh.

The final push from Madison Valley wasn’t as difficult as it often is; I never even had to shift onto my granny ring, partly because I remained distracted by the strange weather, which continued until I crested the penultimate hill before home.

The smells of African cuisine wafted over my neighborhood from the quartet of Ethiopian restaurants that welcome the rider on Cherry Street into Leschi; had I been on the bus, I never would have gotten to enjoy that heady scent.

I pedaled up the final two blocks to my street, then turned down the alley to my backyard. I remembered being tired and cranky when I left school, but by now I’d forgotten how that felt.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Little Things

I hate it when my brakes squeal. Who doesn’t?

But I routinely let it annoy me longer than I realize I could stand once I finally decide to fix it.

And sometimes, like today, all it takes is an Allen wrench to one brakepad for a couple seconds.

So then, after the searing sound goes away, I still have that feeling about clenching the levers for some time, until I don’t and I’m able to breathe again.

Or a rattling front light: all it takes is a twist of the widget. On the tandem, getting the cranks back in phase and turning the eccentric. I also basketted the triple, after customizing the bracket as Mimi had suggested (Mimi’s note: when did I say “customize the bracket”? Uh, yeah. Never. I think I said, “that looks stupid.”)

It doesn’t take much, really, to satisfy: a mowed lawn, a vacuumed bedroom, a well-rolled cigarette.

I missed the opportunity to be out on Thursday night this week, so I did some minor simulation on my early Saturday evening, capped off by Alex Kostlenik’s never-before-seen Nirvana video, in which you could see how prophetic the young Kurt Cobain was already.

Now, I get to sit on the couch in my living room, listening to my child play the piano, staring at my ruined thumbnails and imagining that they hold the departed spirits of my mom and dad, although I can’t really tell which one is which.

And all this in the wake of planning for the time trial; today I rode up two of the hills I want to include and realized that three may be enough, especially if I add a short fourth.

It also became obvious to me that I need to include a 7/11, since those are both prime, too.

All these little things make big differences; when the tiny details are attended to, the overall result you’ll notice twenty years from now gets taken care of itself.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Intuitions Can Whip Your Intuitions

Two of the most widely anthologized readings in applied ethics are Peter Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” and Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion.” Both are superb examples of moral reasoning, eloquently defending, in Singer, the duty of those in the wealthy, industrialized West to assist people in distant countries who are suffering in absolute poverty and, in Thomson, a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, even if we stipulate that the fetus is being with full moral rights, what philosophers refer to as a “person.”

What the essays also have in common is an appeal to what are commonly referred to as “moral intuitions;” both Singer and Thomson, in building their cases, offer an thought-experiment whose implications, from an ethical standpoint, are supposed to be essentially self-evident Any reasonably moral person will have to agree with the authors in the particular case, and so be drawn, by inference, to accept their overall conclusions.

What’s surprising, however, is that while the two thought-experiments have a very similar shape, the conclusions that each believes to be basically a slam-dunk directly contrast with one another.

Singer’s thought-experiment is his famous “drowning child” example. Basically, you are faced with the choice of saving a drowning toddler or getting your new shoes wet. Obviously, you should save the kid; to do otherwise is morally impermissible according to the principle, “If I can stop something bad from happening without sacrificing something of comparable moral worth, I should do so.”

Thomson’s thought-experiment asks whether you have the right to expect Henry Fonda to fly across country and lay his hand on your brow to keep you from dying; Thomson says that while it would be nice of Hank to do so, he is not morally required to do so, and you have no right to demand he does.

It seems, therefore, that Singer and Thomson have clashing intuitions about our duty of beneficence.

Who’s right?

Intuitively, I don’t know.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Prime Time Trial

In celebration of bikes, bike riding, things of highest eminence or rank, the period or state of greatest perfection or vigor of human life, and numbers divisible only by themselves and one, 327 Words is pleased to announce the first (and probably only) Prime Time Trial, a checkpoint-themed alleycat-style bike race starting at 20/20 Cycle, 2020 Union St., Seattle, WA, on Saturday, March 27th, 2010, beginning at 3:27PM, with signups commencing about 2:30.

In hopes of priming the pump, as it were, for the celebratory after-party, cyclists will—along the route—have the opportunity to ingest various prime-themed goodies, including, but not limited to prime rib, pasta primavera, and with any luck, some delicious primordial soup.

Prizes—cash and bike schwag—will be awarded for fastest times, men’s and ladies’ divisions, as well as various runner-up positions, including, of course, DFL.

Prize sponsors on tap include 2020 Cycle, Surly Bikes, Madrona Alehouse, New Belgium Brewing Company, Bicycle Fixation, Swrve Cycling, Haulin’ Colin Trailers, Drunk Cyclist, Urban Velo, Swift Industries,Shaun Deller Designs, Chrome Messenger Bags,Momentum Magazine, Cetma Racks,and DiNotte Lights, and while the amount of loot will no doubt pale in comparison to the haul provided for the Fucking Hills Race, we remain hopeful that some sort of reward will be found for each and every rider who completes the course.

Entry fee is a suggested donation of $7.00, which includes food and drink, spoke card, goodie bag, and commemorative shot glasses for the first 53 participants, as well as some measure of beer and/or other beverages at the after-party.

Friends and relations are invited to show up at the Madrona Alehouse sometime around 6:00 to join in the post-race festivities. With any luck, most cyclists will have returned by then and all should be primed for celebrating their successful completion of the day’s ups and downs. Or not.

In any case, should be a prime example of bike-related nonsense, rain or shine.

For more information, watch this site or email:

This primary race announcement was originally 327 words long.