Friday, April 30, 2010


My evening started out swell: a lovely spring evening for a ride along the lake and then, outside the NiteLite, I got to assist a damsel in distress—this young woman, Kate, had her car blocked in by a pickup truck with only centimeters to spare, but with a little direction and some encouragement on my part, was able to inch back and forth and eventually drive off, so I was feeling very expansive by the time I got to Westlake Center for all the bikes and familiar faces, although names kept escaping me all night long.

We rode through the hobo trail from Beacon Hill to SODO with, remarkably, no mechanicals and not a single broken collarbone although we did kinda bust the balls of the somewhat suspicious-looking electrical contractors who were waiting by the end of it.

And then it was all healthy tall people and a former student at Hooverville, where I guess we blended in enough that nobody wanted to throw us out before we left and (this is where the order of things begins to trail off) went for a spin around the Ghettodrome where they did yell at us to GET OUT OF THE BOWL, although earlier, I guess it was, we woke up the guys staying on the sailing ships on Lake Union and (I’m going to believe) charmed them into letting someone stroll on deck (although I could be completely wrong about that).

Then dot, dot, dot including the Nickerson into which I didn’t go and for me, anyway, a ride back downtown for a nightcap and the opportunity, in keeping with the evening’s opening theme, to share two of my last four dollars with a “non-aggressive” panhandler.

I’m sure other stuff went on without me—as it does for all—but that’s the thing: on a bike, in the spring, here and there round and round all night, even the ellipsis gets to feel like an exclamation point.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Two Girls

I’ve been hanging out with two quite remarkable young women these past few weeks. Both are powerful, independent, self-possessed, and quirky; and while one is the epitome of contemporary post-modern sensibility, and the other paradigmatic of a pre-industrial worldview, each, in her own way represents the apotheosis of a unique brand of femininity, one that challenges the pervading notion of how females in her era ought to behave.

I’m speaking, not to be coy, of the heroines of two very compelling works of fiction, first, Roberta aka “Clyde” Rohbeson, the protagonist of Lynda Barry’s illustrated novel, Cruddy, and second, Jane aka “Janet” Eyre, the eponymous narrator of Charlotte Bronte’s partly autobiographical masterpiece of 19th century social class and manners.

I finished Cruddy earlier this week, unable to restrain myself from turning its pages and the dark and darker story and story-within-a-story unfolded. I’ve been trying to savor Jane Eyre, drinking in Ms. Bronte’s lovely prose more slowly as befits its rich and layered textures.

I also made it a point to mostly read the former in the daytime, since its images and storyline were so brutal; the latter I’ve taken to bed with me, happy to be carried off to dreamland by the lovely and mostly pastoral quality of the text.

I had Cruddy recommended to me a couple months ago, but didn’t get around to checking it out until I was at Powell’s Books in Portland when we were down there for Filmed by Bike. My recalcitrance was based in part on a misconception that it was a “graphic novel,” a form of literature that I tend to (probably unfairly) denigrate.

I don’t know why I never picked up Jane Eyre until this point—probably some misguided notions about olds books written by women—but I’m glad I finally have; I’m as happy as Mr. Rochester himself to hear her voice; in fact, I’m going to stop talking myself right now and go read her some more.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cheater's Proof

So we’re in the third inning of our softball game yesterday; the game is still pretty close—my team, Bill’s Off Broadway’s Chuggers and Sluggers are up about 5 to 2—and the guy at bat fouls my dipsy-doodle pitch almost straight up. The ball is falling between the pitching rubber and home plate on the third base side; I go running under it, calling “Mine, mine, mine,” but just as I reach it, a couple feet inside the basepath, it ticks off my glove and bounds foul.

By this time, the runner is at first base, but the umpire, having not seen the ball hit my mitt, calls “Foul ball!” and orders the guy back to the plate.

My third baseman, obviously a better person than me, announces to the man in blue, while pointing to me “No, no; that’s a fair ball; he touched it.”

The ump looks perplexed and I’m all like, “Hey! He called it foul. It’s a foul ball.”

So, the batter returns to the plate, while his teammates are all yelling at me, “Yo! You touched it!” “Way to play fair, Pitcher!” And “The game is supposed to build character, man!”

But I’m like, “Hey, Ump called it foul.” And “I may have touched the ball, but I don’t know where I was at the time” (even though I did). And “Play ball!”

Of course, on the next pitch, the batter grounds one through the infield, so he ends up at first base, anyway, which I’m kind of glad about, but honestly, I don’t know how bad I should feel about gaming the system like I did.

The way I learned to play ball was that you take whatever edge you can; if the ump gives you one, take it.

Still, it’s only a game and in the end, it didn’t matter since we smoked the other guys, 16-4.

Next time, though, I’ll play differently: I’ll just catch the fucking ball.

Friday, April 23, 2010


When I was in philosophy grad school, one of my fellow eggheads, in response to a lousy grade on a paper or an embarrassing presentation in a seminar or something, announced to us all, “I am a total loser, L-O-S-S-E-R!”, thereby coining the term, “Losser,” which became the rallying cry description for all of us as we repeatedly failed in all the myriad and humiliating ways that not only philosophy grad students, but probably human beings the world over fail again and again in our personal, professional, and avocational lives.


That’s what I am for bailing so early in last night’s bike ride, no more than an hour and a half into it, when it was practically still light out and hardly anyone—with the notable exception of one bloodied latecomer—was even fucked up yet. But the accumulated activities of the week past combined with aggravating concerns about responsibilities yet to be dispatched along with some real longing for home and hearth ultimately compelled me to bid an early adieu, thereby causing me to miss what turned out, I hear, to be some classic shenanigans and conflagration well into the wee hours of the morn’.

As it was, though, I did get to enjoy a spectacular commute home from Bothell under a soft blue sky and clouds so fluffy you could all but hear the opening strains of the “Simpsons” music when you looked up at it, and there were robins, and chickadees, and warblers of some type trilling in response to my squeaky chain all the way.

I thought about all sorts of things I want to do in my environmental ethics class and then wondered a lot about whether God—however you might define Him—would ever get tired about being worshipped. Wouldn’t He have the Groucho Marx-type intuition where He wouldn’t want to be God to anyone to whom He was a god?

It’s like being a loser to losers: a losser!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bill McKibben

I’m kind of a cynic about contemporary environmental activism; so much of it seems sort of a way to sell things—not that I’m opposed to commerce, but when, for instance, General Electric sponsors the effort to get people trading in their old incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents, you’ve got to wonder just a little bit.

I’m also skeptical about the earnestness of the environmental movement, at least as it plays out in Seattle, with lots of gray-haired people in Gore-Tex jackets driving Subarus and Volvos to well-heated events decrying the consumerism and overconsumption.

Last night, though, at Seattle Town Hall, in spite of the fact that both those aspects of the overall effort to do something, anything, about human-induced global climate change and environmental degradation were on display, I found myself getting really excited and energized about possibilities and prospects and even began thinking about how I might take part in an organized environmental movement in the coming months.

The impetus for this inclination came from listening to Bill McKibben, the man who more or less introduced the general public to the reality of global warming, with his 1989 classic, The End of Nature, who was there to talk about, among other things, his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life On a Tough New Planet, in which he argues that we’ve already significantly altered the air, water, and climate of our planet so significantly that we can’t even refer to it by its old name, earth.

He also talked a lot about his organization,, which seeks to convince government and business to get on board with reducing the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 from its current level of about 390 and that’s what got me excited about doing something on 10/10/10,’s next big event day.

My current plan is to round up 350 bike riders to put together a self-supported carbon-neutral party; kind of like your average Thursday night, only bigger.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I was kinda hungry when I woke up yesterday morning, so I had a corn muffin with my coffee. That tasted so good that I followed it up with a scone. Then it was time to get Mimi and Jen up, so I bought some bagels and cream cheese to go with their tea and orange juice respectively. Naturally, they couldn’t finish them, so I did. While waiting for the train about an hour later, I had a bag of nuts, but all the salt made me want something creamy, so I ate a burrito with sour cream. But you can’t eat Mexican food without chips and salsa, so I had to have an order of them, too. And a couple beers. Then, though, I was feeling a little tipsy, so I had a cheese sandwich to sober up. By the time we got back to Seattle, I was ready for a tofu bhan mi from the Saigon deli; they’re so small and tasty, though, I chowed down two. When we got home, there were some leftovers in the fridge that seemed like they were on the verge, so down the maw they went, too. And then those sweet pickles behind the Tupperware containers I cleaned out—I can’t resist them, especially on Saltines with some spicy hot mustard, so I didn’t, half a pack of the crackers later. Now I was getting kinda sleepy, though, but not sleepy enough; half a tumbler of bourbon helped though, but sour mash always makes me crave celery, so I mixed up a salad of greens with some homemade croutons and some blue cheese, which really tastes great when you add sunflower seeds; I saw no reason not to do that. Pretty soon, I was ready for bed, so I brushed my teeth and chewed up my toothbrush for a midnight snack. Then I ate a bar of soap. And drank a bottle of shampoo. I slept a dreamless sleep.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Filmed by Bike 10

I was kinda nervous because “Bike Kill,” the first film in last night’s Filmed by Bike program was so bad ass. After the about two minutes of video from some sort of hard core bike jousting event, which included a giant paper-mache penis battering ram knocking guys in leather off of BMX bikes; I couldn’t imagine how our little film, “The Ant and the Grasshopper” would stack up.

But it fit right in with its own brand of bad assisitude: a little quieter and while not nearly so much of a kick in the balls, still something of a poke in the eyes—at least mine, which got a bit misty at the whole reality of the thing, which included, among other items, a train ride with my family, the opportunity to drink in the street with people I know, and a night of entertainment of several sorts, none of which form the standard quotidian amusements of a community college teacher from Seattle, Washington.

It was a day when bikes leapt off racks at eighty miles an hour and where nobody could ever quite stop shushing the shushers, but for me, it couldn’t have been better unless the evening’s program wasn’t 21 and over the kid could have seen her work on the big screen. As it was, I managed to manage by enjoying pretty much everything, which wasn’t particularly a challenge since pretty much everything was so swell.

Portland remains just so fucking cute you want to strangle it and a hipster Chamber of Commerce advertisement for itself, but I also believed it’s still practically a stage set for a kind of alternative future from a steampunk version of tomorrow, where everyone, even the grownups ride bikes and stays out late, and it doesn’t matter if what you’re doing or where you’re at isn’t a place your mom would go because it’s really about being a part of something where surprisingly, your own piece fits right in.

Friday, April 16, 2010


There was a tax-day Tea-Party rally at Westlake Center last night, concurrent with the bike gang meet-up; I talked to three attendees.

First, was a guy in a suit holding a sign that said something like “Fifty State Health Care Market” whose faith in the free-market system led him to conclude that even services like medical care are best provided by some idealized notion of capitalism (which wouldn’t be possible with the solution he was advocating).

Next, I approached a fellow on stilts wearing a plastic red, white, and blue Uncle Sam costume that I can’t imagine didn’t come from China whose stated message (to me, anyway) was “I love America.”

Best, though, were these three kids, a boy about 10 and his two little sisters, 7 and 9 or so, who were holding a picture of Obama and big sign reading “Infiltrator.” It was cute how the big brother couldn’t really pronounce the word and his siblings didn’t know what it meant. I tried to get a picture of him pointing his own sign at me, with an arrow and the words “Agent Provacateur” on it, but I got distracted when their dad asked me if I was “for God” or not, before answering his own question with the observation, “Well, if you’re from Seattle, I guess not.”

I came away thinking that the Teabaggers are all just lonely people looking desperately for something to belong to and that made me love the Bikebaggers all that much more: we didn’t have to feel helpless and angry; instead, we rode bikes, played kickball and drank beer, and then, under a long twilight sky with Venus glowing brightly alongside a brand-new sliver of moon, pedaled through forest paths so close to elephants you could inhale their warm earthy scent, until we arrived at a patio with fire, that had pretty much all anyone needed, except those government-provided services anyone who pays taxes should be happy to pay for.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Too Many Idiots

One of my favorite memories of my mom is the time she woke me up on a Saturday morning and launched, in medias res, as was her wont, into a monologue—more like a diatribe—of what was on her mind at the time.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the world,” she announced, loud enough to pretty much knock the hangover out of my head, despite the fact that it was only like 7:30AM my time, “too many idiots!”

She then proceeded to fill me in on some sort of patent nonsense on the part of politics or business, the details of which are long lost to me, but I’ll never forget the basic pronouncement, which has served as a guiding principle to describe all kinds of behavior, from the clueless shenanigans of public officials to the lame-brained posturing of talk radio hosts to the short-sighted profiteering of multi-national corporations and their intractable call-center minions.

And it certainly applies to the 48% of the American public, as reported in a recent Gallup poll, who believe that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” (down from 65% in 2008.) How can people be so clueless? How can there be so many idiots? How do these people feed and clothe themselves?

The same percentage, approximately, believe that the threat of global warming is “generally exaggerated.” I’ll tell you what’s generally exaggerated: the intelligence of such idiots!

Okay, now that I’ve got the ad hominems out of my system, I guess I can try a reasoned argument, this one, at least deductively valid:
Either there are too many idiots in the world or I’m wrong about that.
I’m not wrong about that.
Therefore, there are two many idiots in the world.

Ah, the power of the disjunctive syllogism.

But if you prefer modus tollens:
If there aren’t too many idiots, then I’m wrong.
I’m not wrong.
Therefore, there are too many idiots.

Even an idiot can see that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tiny Pokey

I’m reasonably unabashed about taking my relationship with flattened bicycle tires as a metaphor for many things in life.

Slow leaks can be conceived of as a commentary upon one’s reluctance to take care of things one ought to be taking care of in one’s life; multiple punctures as evidence that a person has incurred the wrath of nature, if not some personal god; and blowouts hardly need to be explained, except in terms of their lack of needing any explanation.

So I take it that my recent bout with a tiny little pokey something—I think it was a thorn, actually—must signify something significant, or at least diverting enough to qualify for today’s 327 words.

Thing was, I got a flat on the Saluki the other day on my way out to school, or, more specifically, before I left (my front tire was airless when I went to the shed in the morning to retrieve my bike.) So, I grabbed another option from the quiver and had that be my ride for the day. In the evening, I fixed the Saluki’s tube, but by the time I got out to work the next day, the tire was flat again.

At this point, I had to take the desperate step of not only removing the tire completely from the rim, but the even more radical act of taking off my glasses to peer far-sightedly at whatever it was in the tire itself that was making it lose air all over again.

The close attention paid off, at least: I found the offending tiny pokey poking tinily from between the treads and I had to use my teeth to extract it.

So what does this all mean? Cleary, the message is something about paying closer attention, while simultaneously recognizing one’s limitations.

But it’s also must have something to do with this time of year; I don’t know what it means, but I seem to keep meaning it.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Can an evening be memorable if you can’t remember it?

There are some parts I recall reasonably well, notably herculean efforts to start a fire in the windswept barbecue grill with pages from the Jesus pamphlet (no harm intended!) and then later, interviewing the karaoke-jay at the Boxcar and I even have some images of the Nickerson spread out before me like biofilm on my brain matter, but a lot of the specifics sort of pale in comparison to the generalized delightfulness of the afternoon that became the first daylight meet-up for me of the season and perhaps a precursor of what’s in store during the months ahead, even though it’s clear, from this morning’s perspective, that a person oughtta pace himself especially when drinks with strawberries attached are being handed around.

The advertised theme was “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash,” a phrase I only knew from the Pogues’ album title, but which I now have learned was Winston Churchill’s quote about the British naval tradition, and while nobody wore a sailor suit, I guess all three were more or less on display in one form or another.

Still, I couldn’t tell if the direct route through the alleys and wrong-way one ways straight to the wrong side of Fremont counted as the second or the third, even though there was no question about where the first came into the picture, even if it was mixed with juice and vodka and spiced with vanilla, I think.

In any case, the fancy drinks put everyone in a festive mood eventually—at least as memory serves—and the wind acted as a gentle reminder that walls are a pretty great invention, so despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that it was the sort of night when a route from Magnolia to Magnolia went the long way around, it was also the kind you’ll certainly never forget, (no matter how hard you try) if only you could remember.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Take It

Believe it or not, I love bike riding.

But, not so unbelievably, I don’t always love riding my bike.

Sometimes, I’m tired, cold, or just lazy, and the prospect of the long pedal home from school doesn’t sound that appealing. Or sometimes, like today, the bus is sitting right there as I come out the door and I think, “Wouldn’t it be pleasant to take a nap on the ride home, why make the effort to do the work myself?”

But then I keep in mind that I’m fifty-fucking-three years old and who knows how much longer I’m going to be able to propel myself by my own power from Bothell to Seattle and that makes me change my mind; it occurs to me that it’s really an amazing privilege to be able to pedal, even if it hurts a bit, and so away I go, spinning my cranks just as slowly as you please.

Assuming I decide to belly up to the public trough for just as long as possible, that means I guess I’ll retire in something like twelve years or so. At about 180 days a year, that’s fewer than two thousand days I’ve got left for my regular two-wheeled commute. Figure twenty or so miles a day on average (I usually take the bus out in the morning and ride home) that gives me barely forty-some thousand miles of riding left.

Every time I decide not to ride, I’m cutting into that; how foolish of me to even consider doing so!

Now, I know of course, that the sun is going to supernova in a few billion years, anyway, so naturally, in the long run, it doesn’t matter whether I ride or not; but given that it’s only a matter of time before the planet is reduced to a smoldering cinder anyway, it seems to be that the prudent thing to do is keep pedaling every chance I get, like it or not.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Probably Will

It’s only a matter of time, I fear, before I finally break down and get a cell phone.

What was once a principled decision, then a lifestyle choice, and finally a self-defining crankiness, has become mostly a nuisance. It’s become more inconvenient than it’s worth—and almost more expensive—to not have a cell than to have one.

For one thing, you can hardly find a working payphone anywhere these days. And when you do, they tend to cost more than they’re worth (a dollar for four minutes of talking!) and to compound that, they typically can’t be called into, so when you do finally reach your party on the other end and they don’t pick up—as is the common habit these days—but rather phone back, you can hear them chatting way in the receiver but your own words are not broadcast back. Call then turn into a one-way monologue that sounds like: “Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Okay, then. Bye.” And then they’re gone, without even the telltale dialtone to comfort or annoy you.

It’s especially tiresome when you’re out of town, as I am now; yesterday, for instance, I missed a lunch date and passed up an opportunity to get together with an old friend just because I couldn’t be reached. It’s not certain that either of these appointments would have happened had I an electronic leash, but at least they’d have been more likely.

I’m not looking forward to having another gadget in my life; and I don’t like the idea of contributing to the vast ocean of electronic detritus that’s drowning the planet; however, maybe I can get one made out of bamboo and recycled tires.

On the other hand, if I can just hold out for another couple of years, maybe I can get the implant in my head and fingers that will let me make phone calls without a device.

Or if you’ve got a better idea, text me.

Friday, April 02, 2010

This Is It

The human condition: one of profound loneliness.

Everywhere I went today, people were trying to connect with one another, terrified that they might, as in doing so, we disappear slightly.

All you have to do to make a fortune is figure out how to help people belong to something. We are desperate for community, but simultaneously—at least in my case—resistant to the idea we might be part of one.

Philosophers come together, each and every one imagining he or she is unique, kicking and screaming at the same time that nobody has the same interests. How do we get to be the special member of a community where everyone is special?

Every time I almost merge into the oneness of everything, I notice myself disappearing and get scared, which pulls me back immediately into noticing the differences; then I feel alone again. And this repeats itself over and over again for me and everybody, I’m sure, even though I’m the only one experiencing it the way I do, of course.

I sure did ignore lot of human beings today. There were my friends and child at breakfast time; then, those two homeless people on the way to the train; I think I managed to retreat all the way into myself until I talked to the philosopher in line at the conference; then, even though I made it to Hunan for lunch, I never really conversed with anyone until I was making plans for the future with my colleague; on the bus, I did manage to give up my seat to a child’s mother, and when I arrived at the talk which brought me down here, I exchanged a few ideas with the speaker; afterwards, it was mostly walking and imagining what might be.

If it weren’t for the people who already know me, no one would even be aware I really exist. If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure I’d know I do either.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Movin' On

I’ve had it with bikes. Sick of ‘em.

They’re too slow, too old-fashioned, and really only for nerds in spandex and bowling ball heads. So I’m getting rid of my entire stable of two-wheelers: goodbye to the Saluki, the Quickbeam, and the 420 bike; bonsoir to the Tournesol, so long to the tandem, the triple, and even the once-beloved Bridgestone XO-1; I don’t want ‘em or need ‘em.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

If I can get a few cents on the dollar for each, I’ll have enough money for a down payment on a nice car, something fast and flashy like a Dodge Charger or maybe even a new Chevy Camaro. Something manly, as befits a stud like yours truly.

And speaking of which, no more yoga for me either. That shit’s for girls and sissies. And girl sissies. I’m going to take up weightlifting instead. Or better yet, forget about exercising altogether. If I’m not riding a bike, what do I need to be in shape for, anyway?

Naturally, therefore, you can expect me to start eating meat. Adios to vegetarianism—in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “if we weren’t supposed to eat animals, why’d they make them outta meat?”

Pork, bacon, ham, steak, and especially veal, bring it on!

Of course, it’s not all about consumption; my new way of life calls for giving up some long-standing ingestions, namely beer; you’ll no longer find me quaffing a cold brew after a hot afternoon of softball or mowing the lawn—I’m turning completely to milk and green tea.

And that goes for coffee, too; if I want a little lift in the morning now, I’ll just have a double shot of orange juice.

“Unbelievable,” you might be saying; “Dave, are you stoned?” you might ask.

Nope, sober as a judge; no cannabis for me any more, either.

Matter of fact, the only thing I’m not giving up is my longtime celebrating of April first.