Thursday, July 29, 2010


Saturday, on the Tour de Water Tower, I found myself in Queen Anne, bonking, thirsty, and in need of a place to pee. The reasonable option to find some sugar, hydration, and a toilet seemed to be the Metropolitan Market, a big fancy upscale grocery store right in front of me on my route, so in I went.


Perhaps it was my weakened state; perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the beautiful outdoor environment I’d been enjoying for an hour and a half contrasted with the artificially-lit, low-ceilinged interior of the store; maybe it was the space cookie I ate at the start of the race, but the place was just way too much.

I got lost looking for the restroom amidst the plenty of the cookie department; there must have been 400 types of sweets in brightly-colored boxes, right next to thousands of bottles of various types of soda and flavored water, leading to another aisle stacked floor to roof with condiments and boxed dinners, alongside giant freezer cases stuffed with more multi-colored packages of microwaveable meals than there are fruits and vegetables in the world, (although the nearby produce department with its endless varieties of hybridized tangelos, pluots, and avonanas made a run for the money); I wandered in circles past the kitchenware section replete with 42 unique types of wine-bottle opening devices, and I just kept wondering (besides “where the fuck is the bathroom?”) whether or not life is better with all these choices.

Do human beings really need to parse among several hundred flavors of ice cream? Are we really better off having an almost limitless number of brands of cereals to choose from? I can’t even decide whether to wear one of my two pairs of blue jeans or my bicycle knickers; how can I ever come to grips with 87 types of toothepaste to pick between?

Maybe the really meaningful choice would be to choose fewer choices; I’ll choose that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I’m one of those insufferable types known as a “morning person.”

I actually like to get out of bed early; here in the Northwest summer, when the sun rises before 6:00AM, I have no great aversion to waking at the crack of dawn. I like being up and out before most anyone else; it’s pleasant to be on my bike while the streets are still deserted, and it’s amusing to observe the world transitioning from night to day in various forms, especially the time-honored walk of shame.

That said, I do sometimes wonder why I do it, when I could just snuggle down in bed for another forty or more winks; here in July, especially, when my schedule is particularly lax, pretty much the main reason I do get up when I do is to head to yoga class, but of course, that gives rise to the further question, “why practice at all?” one which, not coincidentally, was sort of bedeviling me as worked my way through the Ashtanga primary series this morning.

It’s a question I’ve pondered before, and indeed, I think the pondering is part of the practice itself; still, it does seem sort of odd to have one’s main reason for rising from bed to be an activity for which practical justification itself remains wanting.

But maybe this puzzle is just an illustration of the essential absurdity of the human condition, in which we’re condemned to behave as if our lives have meaning in a Universe devoid of any real meaning; thus, while all the bending, breathing, and sweating I do while the rest of the world sleeps is as pointless as counting blades of grass all day long on the University of Washington quad, it’s incumbent upon me to behave as if doing so is essential to human happiness and perhaps even world peace.

On the other hand, maybe the whole reason is simply so I can relax in Savasana for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last night, I watched Hype, the 1996 Doug Pray-directed documentary about Seattle’s Grunge phenomenon; what struck me most wasn’t how long ago the “movement” occurred (two decades goes by fast), but how long ago the retrospective was; the film came out in 1996; I would have guessed 2000 at the earliest. What this tells me is that even looking back is getting farther away; now I can look back on looking back and be nostalgic about looking-back.

To put it another way, it’s one thing to be old, but it’s another to be so old that you were old even when you were young.

Or something like that.

The film chronicles the years from about 1986 or so, when the sound that became grunge first started emerging from Pacific Northwest until April 10, 1994, when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, essentially marking the end of the era. Jen and I were in Seattle that day; we had come out from Minneapolis so I could visit the Philosophy graduate program at the UW, which I began attending the following fall quarter.

What became apparent that afternoon was that once again, I had missed arriving in a town in time to take part in (or at least be a witness to) the hot musical movement of the moment.

Jen and I had moved to Minneapolis, for example, in 1989, effectively missing the “Minneapolis sound” of bands like the Replacements and Soul Asylum by about a year and a half.

Prior to that, I lived in LA from 1981 to 1984, too early for the great heavy-metal hairdo bands of the age, too late really to be part of the punk scene that produced bands like the Minutemen and the Germs.

And then, of course, there were those years in San Francisco in the late 1970s, well after the hippie explosion ten years earlier.

I’m not sure what I’m missing right now, but if history is any guide, it’s gonna be big!

Monday, July 26, 2010


I remain fascinated by the condition known as anosognosia, in which a person suffering a disability is unaware that he or she has it and I can’t help but entertain the possibility that I could be suffering a particularly virulent form of it.

For instance, it seems reasonably plausible to me that I could be living in some kind of Truman Show scenario, in which everyone around me, including family members, friends, students—current and former, shopkeepers, coffeeshop baristas, and even my dog are all hiding some key bit of information about me from me and nothing I could ever do would induce them to spill the beans.

I’m pretty sure that information would have to be something like the revelation that time and personal identity are an illusion; that is, everybody in the world but me knows that there are no discrete selves; human beings, such as they are, are disembodied spirits who can inhabit different bodies at different times; consequently time travel is completely possible (in fact, it’s utterly commonplace), so that when you’re in a group of people, talking to say, a casual acquaintance in the year 2010, you could be—and everyone else knows it, while I don’t—actually having a conversation with the “spirit” of your “dead” mom or dad.

Of course, why this information is being kept from me is something of a mystery, (to me, that is) but everyone else knows why it must be so: it probably has something to do with the fact that, were I do be told, the entire universal superstructure that sustains this reality would come crashing apart, although why that is, I have no idea—even though, of course, everybody else does.

Now, a person might observe that talk of this sort smacks of psychotic paranoia to say the least, but see? Here we go again; maybe I am a complete and utter paranoid schizophrenic, but anosognisic I am, I just don’t know it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


My first really memorable moment on today’s Tour de Water Tower Deux was in West Seattle after me and a Native American guy on a Harley-Davidson both almost got creamed by a sedan turning left; he shook his helmeted head in mutual wonder and asked, “You know what you get when you cross prune juice and holy water?”

“A faster way to heaven?” I ventured.

“A religious movement,” he said and took off.

But there were many more on a four and a half-hour bike ride to, as one wag put it, “all the places you don’t want to ride to.,” although taken all together, it turns out you wouldn’t want to miss one…well, maybe two.

I was quite pleased with my route in Magnolia, in contrast to last year, when it was my true Beef Wellington; I took the way around instead of up and over and up and over.

But it would have been a real mistake to follow my route from Magnolia to Phinney Ridge; the disclosure that it began with, “I walked my bike over the locks” elicited chuckles right from the start. Then, I somehow got it into my head that the direct approach would be the quickest. Fortunately, at least, there are corrugations in the concrete so when you walk your bike up, your feet don’t slip.

On the other hand, I learned my lesson and took the low road across town and arrived at the lovely Maple Leaf watertower in plenty of mood for a quick can of beer at the Reservoir Tavern (thereby, I’m pretty sure, securing the honor of DFL, which earned me a Core Malt Liquor!) and got to experience, at last, that I was racing, as I shot past kids with training wheels on the Burke-Gilman.

Every watertower reflects its neighborhood: Queen Anne is vaguely mediaeval; West Seattle well-planned; Phinney just sits there; Capitol Hill has other things to appreciate; and Magnolia—you just have to know.


Today’s teeth-gnashing news story is that workers on the Deepwater Horizon apparently turned off the electronic alarm on the rig at night so that it wouldn’t go off and wake them up.


I’ve done the same thing with a smoke alarm in my house, so I probably shouldn’t throw stones, but gosh, this is just a bit, as my mom used to say, beyond the pale, isn’t it? I mean, why have an alarm system if you’re just going to disable it? It reminds me of cyclists I sometimes see—usually students around campus at the UW—who are carrying their bike helmets on their handlebars. I myself am not totally a helmet-Nazi, but it’s always seemed to me that—as long as you’ve got it—you may as well wear it on your head. Carrying it seems more trouble than just using it; seems similar in the case of the Deepwater Horizon’s emergency alarm: as long as it was there, wouldn’t it have made more sense just to let the thing run?

Again, though, I can certainly understand the impulse; sleep is important and you don’t find me, for example, jumping out of bed in the middle of the night whenever I hear a car alarm that might be mine. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy if the factory-installed alarm in my own automobile were removed; it never goes off except accidentally and so even if someone were breaking in to the vehicle, I’d never suspect it; consequently, the alarm is a good as useless and wouldn’t be missed were it not there.

So it’s not that I don’t get why the engineers on the oil rig turned off the alarm; still, the consequence of my car alarm being ignored is little more than a rifled-through glovebox and maybe some stolen CDs; seems a little different than preventing the worst environmental catastrophe in our country’s history.

It’s just too much; wake me when it’s over.

Friday, July 23, 2010


“Suck it, commuter!” someone yelled with that hearty sense of abandon that only comes from riding in a pack of bicycles that includes a bike trailer-mounted Conestoga wagon, the realization of one of those ideas that comes to a person on a solo bike tour, and which pays dividends as a keg hauler on the Oregon trail, or in this case, something akin to that classic adventure, missing, thankfully, dead oxen, but including, in exchange, fireworks, missiles at the moon, and countless opportunities for hunting game other than bison and probably even some likelihood of dying from dysentery, although no one, thankfully, succumbed, at least during my portion of the ride.

I broke two of my time-honored rules; first, declining to swim in the lake when the opportunity presented itself (due to the chill wind blowing off the water), and second, riding my bike even though I was unable to unlock it (tired old eyes leaving the Knarr prevented me from lining up the combination numbers just right; I remain in debt to my more youthful companion who was able to do so for me), but still everything turned out all right in spite of not making it to either the outdoor big screen presentation of the Tour de France nor the end-of-the-evening festivities with fire celebrating the completion of the long and lonesome trail.

My spoke card tombstone reads “Here lies Professor Dave, died of trampled by oxen” which, as it turns out, seems pretty accurate for how I felt this morning, although thanks to the healing powers of caffeine and sugar, I’m ready now another expedition, especially if it were to include the puffy pink sunset of last night’s adventure.

I drank my beer from a giant-sized can of Rainier, which made me seem like a midget when holding it, but when refilled from the covered wagon, I felt as tall and strong as those pioneers must have when they arrived successfully in Oregon City.


I’ve been camping with the family these last couple days (Grayland Beach on the Washington coast, and boy it is aptly named; we haven’t seen the sun for 48 hours) and so haven’t shaved for two mornings in a row (mountain man!) thereby breaking my streak of many months consecutively, I’m sure, of running a blade over my chin and cheeks every morning, and that’ made me think, as I sometimes do, of the number of times I’ve done something in my life, like, take shaving, which, if I count it all up, say, something on the order of five times a week for about thirty years now (I don’t think I really shaved regularly until my mid-twenties), that would be, give or take a few hundred, something on the order of five thousand times I’ve done so.

And say it takes me about three to five minutes to complete my tonsure, that means I’ve spend about 15000 minutes shaving or around 250 hours or more than 10 days of my life standing in front of a mirror removing the whiskers from my face.


Of course, that’s nothing compared to something even more commonplace, like urination; just figure: 5 to 10 times a day (let’s just say 7) for 53 years; that means I’ve peed approximately 150,000 times; suppose it takes about half a minute for each micturation; that’s 75000 minutes or 1250 hours or like about 50 days pissing constantly, all around the clock from midnight until midnight, enough to warrant a chapter in that famous book, The Yellow River, by the author I.P. Freely, haha.

Would that I could have all this time back, just think of what I might have accomplished. At the very least, I’d have had the opportunity to add to the probably 600 or so hours I’ve spent writing the almost 1200 327 word essays I’ve created, that’s about 25 days of my life I’ve spent and will never get back.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Next time, I’m coming back as a dog, or even something further removed from the human condition, like, say, a rock—something that doesn’t have to deal at all with the sort to concerns that concern most of us home sapiens all the time: question like “what am I doing with my life?” or “How do I be a better father?” or “do my friends really like me or are they just pretending so they can get my bikes when I die?”

It’s too complicated being a human being; you’re always having to face the fact of being a human: that is, an animal whose brain evolved to be way too big for the job it evolved for, which was basically, as far as I can tell, to procure food, make babies, and dispose of biological waste in a safe manner, the third of which we’d obviously do a much better job of if we weren’t so good at the second.

Immanuel Kant argued that since nature never does anything without a purpose, and since it’s clear that our reasoning brains weren’t designed to help us figure out how to be happy (if we were robot programmed for bliss, we’d all be much more content) that the purpose of human reason must be to enable us to determine right from wrong, or, as more like he would put it, identify the imperatives of the moral law.

Frankly, I don’t buy it and not just because of my sneaking suspicion that the end result of cognitive evolution can be nothing other than the production of 327 word essays.

No, as I sit here, out of door in our little campground by the sea, I have to conclude the whole point of human beings being able to think is so we can think thoughts that keep us tossing and turning all night and which, thankfully, but in spite of our best efforts, we can hardly ever remember in the morning.

Monday, July 19, 2010


My internetz just had a little burp; I was without access to the tubes for like 10 minutes and my world all but came to a screeching halt; for instance, I had to stare at my own blank white page rather than surfing the web anytime I couldn’t think of the next thing to say and with all that time to reflect, it occurred to me how utterly dependent I am on all sorts of technologies that I have no idea how to operate.

I could no more figure out how to make zeros and ones swim through fiber optic wires and reform themselves into pretty pictures on my computer screen than I could seduce Angelina Jolie without the aid of Rohypnal; but that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg; I wouldn’t even, come to think about it, be able to make my morning cup of coffee on my own: harvesting and roasting the beans would be far enough beyond my ken; the part where someone had to figure out how to make a stove that can boil water, much less get the water into and out of my tap remains an absolute mystery.

I suppose this should worry me a bit; come the zombie apocalypse, I guess I’m fucked. But frankly, the whole survivalist thing has always left me rather cold; if civilization as we know it comes totally crashing down, I’d just as soon go with it. Last man alive? I don’t think so; I don’t even really like to be the last person to leave a party.

Not that I wouldn’t mind being slightly more handy; it would be great to be able to knock out a wall and put in a new kitchen over the weekend; as it is, I had to settle for knocking back a cold one and cleaning the refrigerator. I did, at least, rely on technology I know how to use: the hand-held bottle opener and a sponge.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This is why every household needs a Haulin’ Colin trailer:

Last night, the whole fam-damnily—me, Jen, and the kid—plus Mimi’s friend, along with our housemate, Beth, all rode bikes to the outdoor movie in Cal Anderson park; thanks to the trailer, we did so in style, arriving with a full cooler of soda, beer, and already-mixed margueritas, a stack of blankets for spreading out upon, a couple of lawn chairs for those who like to sit up, and a big box of picnic food, plates, glasses, and utensils, surrounded by all manner of coats, sweaters, and sundry wraps for when it got chilly after sunset; all this was easily carried and I could have even piled on more; had we not had such cargo capacity we’d have had to divvy up the load in much less a practical manner; we couldn’t have brought the cooler, and in the end, we might even have had to (shudder) drive.

As it was, we all got a pleasant little bike ride on a lovely summer night and were able to enjoy—without worrying about the legal status of our sobriety on the ride home—the full experience of watching the hilarious “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” a movie I’d somehow mostly overlooked in my years of film-watching; I had no idea it was so witty, racy, and filled with delights for just about everyone, no matter what your orientation towards cinematic beauty; in addition to the obvious charms of watching Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, you also had to love the dance bit featuring Speedo-clad male swimmers and contortionists as well as the unabashed naughtiness of the signature number “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” especially when Ms. Russell performs it her way in the French courtroom.

After the film, we just piled all our junk back on the trailer and rode home, merrily humming the evening’s tunes; diamonds may be a girl’s best friend; me, I’ll take a trailer.

Friday, July 16, 2010


You can have your Las Vegas penthouse suite with piles of cocaine and hoards of strippers giving free lap dances to anything with a pulse, or your exclusive downtown New York City nightclub packed with free-flowing champagne, caviar, and supermodels, or even your more traditional forms of amusement, like sitting around the great table after the hunt, savaging huge drumsticks of meat, throwing the bones to the dogs, and playing slap n’ tickle with the serving wenches; but for me, when it comes to good, clean fun, nothing beats riding bikes with a bunch of familiar faces to the local lake on a clear summer night, quaffing quaffables and munching pretzel rods, then swimming around in the surprisingly warm water while the sun slowly sets over the city and you bask in the glow that emanates not only from the exterior world but also from the interior experience that lasts so long you can still feel it the next morning just by sitting still and letting the images wash back through your mind’s eye.

Bungie-jumping, Formula One racing, hang-gliding from the Golden Gate Bridge: they’re all great to be sure, but in my experience—as with the aforementioned celebratory thrills—all pale in comparison to floating on your back in the water, paddling forward to the rocky shore for another swig on your beer, while folks stand around waist-deep in the wet sharing stories and telling lies and eventually have to have chicken fights complete with costume-chicken head; and while I’m sure Brad and Angelina, not to mention Barack and Michelle, would really have liked to see me at their party on Air Force One, frankly, there was no place on earth I’d have rather been; and I’m sure that had they had the opportunity to pedal and swim around like I did last night, they’d have understood why I had to turn down their invitation.

That fun is fun to be sure, but nothing like this.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I read somewhere about a Native American tribe, I think it was, who called themselves something like the “deer people” because their entire diet and way of live depended on the deer they killed, consumed, and used for clothing, blankets, and other sundry items. Literally, they were what they ate and since pretty much all they ate was deer, it was reasonable to conclude that they were deer; hence, the moniker.

If that’s the right way to think about things (and who am I to dispute the wisdom of tribal elders?) then I guess I should be called something like a “cheese people,” since the major part of my diet involves cheese, specifically Tillamook Vintage White Extra-Sharp Cheddar, available in your grocer’s cooler at about thirteen bucks for a giant-sized brick.

I’m “oversharing,” natch, to admit it, but so what? Often is the day I have a couple slices with jelly on toast for breakfast, a couple more on warmed bread with tomato, mayo and mustard for lunch, and then snack on small squares with crackers during the cocktail hour. All I’m missing, I guess, would be to make a stylish jerkin out of the plastic wrapper it comes in and I’d be right up there with those legendary “deer people” when it comes to using the entire “animal.”

“Cheese people,” indeed.

Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t consume anything else whatsoever than fermented cow pus; there’s coffee, of course, and beer, too. But I’ll bet if they did one of those tests on my hair follicles or whatever—the one that Michael Pollan talks about which indicate that basically, your average American is made of the same thing as a corn chip—they’d discover that I have about the same molecular structure as a grilled cheese sandwich.

It would be a nice chewy one, though, on good bread, with some iced coffee to wash it down, just like the one I’m about to make.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


It’s finally summer here in the Northwest, and this time it looks like it’s going to stick, too, so we can pretty much count on lovely weather for the next month and a half (except for those three days next week when the family goes camping), and so, in addition to the breathless commentary we get from television weathercasters anytime the mercury rises above 80 degrees, we’re also at last ready to enjoy the lovely fashions sported by denizens of our fair city as they emerge from their polar fleece cocoons into which they’ve been zipped for the last ten months.

Of special note are the breezy sundresses and sleeveless tops worn by young women on their way to office jobs in the morning; as I pedal home from yoga around 8:30 in the AM, I usually have the pleasure of admiring (but not in some creepy old creeper way; rather, in a pure aesthetic appreciation mode) an earnest 20-something on the way to her important position in the city planning department or a graphic arts firm, looking all cool and collected in her flowing skirt and fitted blouse; I’m reminded of the character Jade in “Do the Right Thing,” who alone remained cool on the sweltering summer day in Spike Lee’s classic.

But then, there’s all these young men running around in—and here I go into full Andy Rooney mode—shorts. Shorts? On grown-up males? In public?

Dudes, I’m sure you all have beautiful legs and no doubt it’s slightly (physically) cooler to let your kneecaps run free, but please, have some self-respect. The only time any man over the age of 18 should wear shorts in public is if he’s competing in an athletic event, or maybe, at the beach, if he isn’t planning to dine out in public without changing.

Short pants are for little boys, but maybe that’s the point. Leave me out of it, though; I draw the line at clam-diggers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Reading

I’ve gotten off to a bit of a slow start on my summer reading this year; (it’s hard to pay attention to the written word when you’re in a crowded bar, drinking beer and staring up at the soccer ball world championship on flat-screen TVs), but I’ve made some headway with texts that aren’t completely recreational (like Wodehouse), and I’ve got plans for a few more, including, I think, to finally try again to tackle Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (although I may opt for his more accessible latest, Inherent Vice, which I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a couple months.)

So far, the book I’ve liked best this season has been David Mitchell’s bildungsoman, Black Swan Green, just the sort of coming-of-age novel with precocious narrator that I’ve enjoyed ever since I read James Collier’s The Teddy Bear Habit back in fourth grade. Mitchell has a brilliant ear for dialogue; there are passages in the book where Jason, the young stammering protagonist, recounts the tense the dinner-table discussions between his parents that are as hilarious as they heart-breaking and other places where he gets the way teenagers establish status hierarchies through insults and comebacks just absolutely spot on. I only just heard about Mitchell a few weeks ago in a review by Dave Eggers of his new book; now I’m all hot to try out his masterpiece, Cloud Atlas.

I also enjoyed—if you could call it that—Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther. I’m sure I’m not saying anything new to note how contemporary many of the sentiments were in spite of the book being like 240 years old, like this one: “...I see that all our efforts have no other result than to satisfy needs which in turn serve no purpose but to prolong our wretched existence…”

And speaking of wretched existence, now I’m into Sinclair Lewis’ classic, The Jungle, which I think I may have read before, which might explain why I don’t eat meat.

Monday, July 12, 2010


It occurred to me this morning, as I wrapped my sweaty right arm around my sweaty right knee, then brought my sweaty left arm behind my very sweaty back to clasp hands and breathe, that it's now more than twelve years I've been doing this nearly every day of the week except for Sundays and twice a month, on the new and full moon days. That means I've probably done this pose-marichyasana B-about three thousand times. And while you'd think I'd be better at it after all these years, it is sort of remarkable to tally up all the effort and expense I've devoted to this almost daily endeavor of contorting my body into some five dozen different poses, which, in addition to being only one of the eight limbs of the fully-fledged yoga practice, is probably just another kind of calisthenics, albeit one that looks and sounds cooler than Jack LaLanne throwing a medicine ball around.

Am I a better person for all this twisting and turning? Probably not, but I do think the physical practice has contributed to my general level of health, and so, what I'm banking on is that, in the long run, doing yoga will help me live a bit longer, the hoped-for result of which will be, I'll have enough time in my life to figure a few more things out before I die-like, of course, whether it really makes any difference to my growth and development as a human being to practice yoga so diligently.

Of course, the vast majority of the time I've spent undertaking the physical practice has been in the morning; I've set my alarm clock hundreds of times in order to rise from bed, more or less groggy and toddle off to a place where I can set down my mat and begin the first sun salutation; so even if it doesn't make a difference, all I'd be doing otherwise, anyway, is sleeping.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve been doing a yeoman’s job of smoothing out the folds in my brain’s gray matter; from softball game hydrating (with beer) to backyard-barbecue quaffing (more beer) to this morning’s soccer game (beer for breakfast!), I’ve managed to stay sufficiently lubricated that my ability to do logic puzzles would likely be compromised, although I’ve not had trouble staying upright on two wheels nor tidying up the house in the family’s time away.

I remain uncertain, however, about the degree to which my synapses and neurons are performing at their peak; in the absence of further data, I’m going to hypothesize that while there’s some sputtering going on, ignition of a sorts is yet possible. I can still write a coherent sentence, at least, even if the subject matter turns out to be less than stellar.

Unless, that is, I’m suffering from anosognosia, a condition the documentary film-maker, Errol Morris recently wrote about in the New York Times, where you have some sort of affliction and don’t know you have it, for example people who are blind but don’t realize the can’t see,

I’m sort of taken with that idea right now: what’s intriguing is that you could have it, but not know you have it—in fact, that seems to be a necessary condition of the phenomenon, which means that you could never know if you had it—which means, by extension, that we could all be suffering from anosognisia, but not know it—or, at least I could, since even if people told me I had it, I wouldn’t listen.

Morris tells the story in his essay about a would-be bank robber in Pittsburgh who covered his face in lemon juice because he believed that doing so would make him invisible to security cameras; the guy was certain, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that it was working.

Set the bar that low, even I can clear it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


It was 1996 all over again at the Showbox last night as I attended the reunion show of one of my favorite bands of that period, Carissa’s Wierd. The “slow-core” “chamber rock” stylists performed to their usual heartbreaking best and it was charming to see so many young people wandering around misty-eyed as they recalled their youth from a decade earlier.

I felt like it was a real opportunity for lots of kids to feel kind of old for the first of many times in their lives.

Earlier in the evening, I had gone to the Delegate Reception at this year’s American Federation of Teachers convention at a downtown hotel; it warmed my heart to be in a room drinking (free! Your dues payments at work!) beer with a couple thousand unionized teachers, and it reminded me how we’re all still grad students at heart when it comes to free food, of which there was plenty.

I had some time to kill before the show, so I found myself in a place that turns into a self-anointed speakeasy at night but early in the evening, is pretty much like a regular bar, where I got to have another out-of-context experience with a former student, an experience that seemed well in keeping with the evening’s theme of past events in new settings.

Opening the show was another band I liked for a little while, Aveo, whose career tanked, I’ll bet, when in turned out they have the same name as a Chevrolet subcompact car, yet another reminder that forces beyond our control probably exert way more control over things than we realize, although saying so does seem to suggest that we’re contradicting ourselves in some way.

But I guess that paradoxical quality really was the message of the night: the past is the present; the future is the now; what once was returns again; the one thing we can surely know is that we don’t know nothing.

Friday, July 09, 2010


There’s a puzzle in the field of philosophy of mind about the metaphysics of physical sensations; the thought experiment that illustrates it is to imagine what’s referred to as a “super Stoic,” someone who claims to be feeling something—intense physical pain, for example—but who doesn’t show any outward signs of it; the question then is whether we can really say that the person is having a bona fide sensation.

Conversely, we might also wonder whether exhibiting the relevant behaviors means that the person is feeling the feeling—and that’s what it was for me, at first, in this year’s edition of the Running of the Bulls, the now traditional dress-up clusterfuck bike ride and generalized shenanigans sometime in mid-July.

Visually, it was stunning: Westlake Center taken over with about fifty idiots in white pants and shirts with red sashes along with a handful of bulls, including Mr. Leggohead.

“What is this?” asked all the pedestrians as we rode by, ululating and singing. But how do you answer when you have no idea yourself? “Running of the bulls!” someone would shout back matter-of-factly.

But what amazed me most was how the fun just gets inside you after you act like it for a while and by the time I was reminded never to pass up an opportunity to jump in the lake on a hot night there was no doubting either the internal reality nor outward expression of this bliss. The endless sunset alone would have been worth the price of admission.

Even the frat-boy bar hell had moments of pure poetry, in particular, the most lugubriously delicious exhibition of mechanical bull-riding you’ve ever seen and street-dancing, within and al fresco.

And then, because the bulls were still running, the prey kept on riding, for singing and French fries where all you had to do was just open your eyes and look around and you’d know for certain that fun was being felt inside and out.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Poor South Park! Mean old King County went and closed down their bridge! And now, that means there’s only eight left in the neighborhood!

Actually, I do think it sucks about the South Park Bridge, but that didn’t mitigate the enjoyment I experienced crossing and re-crossing the Duwamish River again and again on our ramble south last evening, a Tuesday night so warm and beautiful that I couldn’t resist the unusual decision to tag along on the less-popular of the two regularly-scheduled .83 rides of the week.

Some cyclists do what they call “pass hunting;” big apparently in Japan and France, that’s where you ride up mountains looking for elevation markers to indicate you’ve completed that ride; when you tally up a hundred or so, you get a pin, supposedly.

The new thing, then, is going to be “bridge hunting.” That’s where you wind around a local river looking for all the ways to cross it; I’d already been over five or six of the eight we did; there was one, though, a pedestrian bridge with a dry-rotting wood deck (which made for an interesting descent) and another on Boeing property, prominently labeled “No bikes” that were new to me.

The pace was brisk, perhaps a little bit too much like bike-riding for my taste, but with only six of us—even though one was Sketchy, who never met a gravel shortcut he didn’t like, even one heading right for the SLUT—it made sense to concentrate more on pedaling than some of the ancillary delights of bike gang, although we did end up at Loretta’s where the beer was cold, the fries were warm, and the Hamm’s beer sign waterfall never stops flowing.

I had let it be known around the home front that I’d be home by 10:30-ish; this was met with much skepticism; but guess what? Near South Park, you can easily cross 8 bridges, drink 2 beers, and still be home before 11:00.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


A guy is pretty responsible all during the school year; suppose he works, as goes the old saw, 24/7, (that is 24 hours a week, seven months a year, ha-ha); certainly, he deserves a day where all he does is get up in the morning, ride his bike over the hill to do an hour and a half of yoga, before coming home for breakfast, and then, after pedaling his kid to summer camp, returns home, changes clothes and rides the tandem with his spouse to a bar/restaurant where he has appetizers and beer for brunch and lunch while watching a sporting event that’s reasonably entertaining and comes out just as he would have hoped; then, a charming stroll around with his loved one and a stop in a vintage clothing store where he scores a couple of wearable items, cheap, followed by more bike riding and iced coffee at the grooviest of coffeeshops, until it’s time to pick up his kid and have a late lunch and a cold one with the whole family; certainly, a guy deserves a day like this at least once a summer, right?

If he were in another country—or even town—all this would seem perfectly acceptable, but for some reason, in the place you live, you feel like you ought to be doing more, even if what you might be doing wouldn’t really make the world all that better a place, at least no better than a place where a guy could enjoy a day like this whether he merits it or not.

His hat goes off to all the good people who had to be indoors in an office or classroom today and he assures them he’s doing all he can to make sure that the loveliness of the day was taken full advantage of; maybe he doesn’t deserve it, but then, that’s all the more reason to pay such homage to the grace that makes it possible.

Monday, July 05, 2010


One of the good things about having summers off (besides the napping and binging parts) is that it’s preparing me for my future career as a retired person. Having all these days in a row where I’ve got nothing I especially have to do is positioning me well, I think, for the time when my entire compendium of responsibilities amounts to little more than having to take the garbage out once a week. The fact that, in spite of this, I regularly manage to get up before noon is a good sign: I’m sure I’ll be one of those old guys who yells at kids to get off his lawn, but I’ll be up and out of bed in time to include kids on their ways to school as objects of my opprobrium.

It’s more difficult than you might think to fill up one’s days with stuff to do, especially when you don’t really have to do anything and most of the things you could do—home repairs, lawn care, etc.—are tasks you usually spend a lot of energy avoiding. I could hardly imagine making myself grade a big stack of student papers right now, either; on the other hand, thanks to the internetz, a person can easily consume a good two or three hours at a stretch just fiddling around—and that’s just on eBay. Begin poking around Huffington Post or the New York Times and there, you’ve almost used up your entire day.

Eating, of course, is another time-honored technique for whiling away the hours. What’s especially effective is to have your food in a different room—or even better, different floor—so you have to leave whatever your doing (poking around the internetz, usually) to get it. Then, just have a bite or two, put it back in the refrigerator, return to “work,” and so on.

Just as it’s possible, eventually, to use up 327 words, a whole day is dispatched, as well.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Part of the appeal of soccer—at least to me, a Johnny-come-lately to the sport—is just how excruciatingly boring it is.

I suppose that to the tried-and-true fan, it’s the most exciting game around: the action never stops and anything can happen at any time, but my experience, apart from those few instants when the US scored a goal, is of watching many moments of athletic expertise with very little payoff. It’s kind of like listening to classical musicians, where you get to experience virtuosity, but it’s in service of music just leaves you emotionally cold.

Nonetheless, the ennui-inducing aspect of the game doesn’t prevent me from watching it with some enjoyment; I like how, after staring at a televised match for a couple hours, when I close my eyes, I see little foosball men running around on the insides of my eyelids.

Yesterday morning, I hung out at a coffeeshop/bar to catch Netherlands vs. Brazil. It made things a lot more interesting to be among a crowd of people who were totally into the match, and it didn’t hurt to have a couple of Guinness stouts for breakfast. I was glad to see Holland prevail, at the very least because their orange uniforms are more pleasant for me to observe on the screen, a consideration that probably illustrates as well as anything else, the level of interest I actually have in all of this.

It is the time of non-American sports, though: the Tour de France started today, and there’s a sport, which, while I adore in practice, when viewed on television, makes even soccer seem thrilling.

People complain that going to a baseball game is like watching paint dry; perhaps there’s an aspect of that, but at least it’s a brightly-colored paint; with soccer, it’s like a soothing earth tone shade, applied to a piece of plywood. And after 90 minutes, only is the paint still wet, nobody has even made a brushstroke yet.

Friday, July 02, 2010


In the clear light of dawn, it doesn’t seem so funny, but the night before, standing around a fire at the beach that you’ve reached on two wheels, talking about the eating habits of aquatic rodents, the concept “beaver diet” is hilarious, affording many moments of laughter and an assurance that it represents the organizing principle for not just the written word, but arguably, the well-lived life, which just goes to show you how magical is the power of the bicycle in that it can transform the mundane and silly into the highly amusing and profound, even if the ride itself isn’t all that remarkable, but merely an old-time favorite consisting of familiar pathways and typically commonplace destinations.

On another of this season’s cool summer evenings, a small contingent (for July) of cyclists set out from Westlake Center and relatively quickly—without a single mechanical (in sharp contrast to the previous week) made it to water’s edge where, in spite of the drizzle, spirits were festive and the fire steady, if small.

I watched sand-wrestling and wandered around to other groups overhearing conversations, all of which, under the conditions, seemed as fascinating as they were spirited, whether or not that attitude carries through until morning.

The lesson I take, if there is one, might be that it doesn’t have to be everything all the time; simple pleasures can provide plenty of pleasure as long as they’re arrived at under your own power and no one gets hit by a car (or those that do, in other settings, prior to the shenanigans, are all accounted for and resting comfortably.)

In the end, it turned out for me to be one of those nights where most of the riding is riding home and most of that, thanks to all that led up to it, was the kind that’s remarkably painless, which just goes to illustrate once again, in another way, how magically transformative is even the most commonplace pedaling.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


One of the many things I love about this time of year—along with evenings that stay light until nearly 10:00PM, mornings that completely emerge from darkness by 5:00AM, and days like this where I can putter about all morning and be ready for a nap before noon—is how inundated my little neighborhood is with all kinds of songbirds.

I’m not very adept at identifying them, but I know vaguely that there are robins, chickadees, juncos, sparrows, warblers, vireos, wrens, crows, jays, goldfinches, and, of course, the ubiquitous starlings, that even I can pick out as they stroll across the lawn, their yellow beaks prominent.

I’m pretty sure that the early risers are the black-capped chickadees; as soon as the sun begins to creep over the Cascades, they start their morning song. The other night it was hot enough (for about the first time this unusually cool and wet summer) to leave the windows open all night; at 4:30, the symphony began and it was so loud I had to get up and close them in order to get back to a fitful sleep.

The robins are the most relentless; there’s always one sitting on the edge of a branch somewhere making its characteristic warble. The sparrows are the loudest, when they all get together and take over a tree. And the flicker that hangs out in the dead tree at the end of the alley is the most impressive, especially when he does his rat-a-tat-tat drilling for whatever it is he’s drilling for.

Someday, I hope to take a class in bird identification; seems to me that in the post-apocalyptic future, we’ll want to be able to know which birds are left and what their songs and activities are telling us about things. Of course, identification will probably be easier then since there will only be a few species left: crows, naturally, pigeons, for sure, and if we’re lucky, maybe a seagull or two, visiting.