Monday, May 31, 2010

Sure, Whatever

It sets my teeth on edge when people complain about the weather, especially in Seattle. Yes, it rains in the spring. Yes, it can be chilly until July. Yes, it’s sunnier in other places, but most of them aren’t the all-around heaven on earth it is here in the Pacific Northwest, either.

Of course, complaining about people complaining about the weather is probably just as bad as complaining about rain; in both cases, there’s not really much to be done to change things.

The whole concept of “bad weather,” is, of course, ludicrous. A rainy spring day in Seattle isn’t “bad weather;” that would be, by contrast, a long string of sunny ones, or even worse, fire and brimstone falling from the sky.

Ducks never seem to get upset about the rain; fish neither, so why should we?

Admittedly, it’s not particularly delightful to be out on a bike ride getting soaked. But generally, the showers pass and one dries off relatively quickly. It’s way worse, in any case, to be driving a car around when it’s pouring, at least that was my impression today when I biked with the trailer down to the Goodwill to drop off some old stuff; sure, I was getting relatively drenched, but at least I wasn’t stuck in the parking lot traffic and didn’t have to dart around like a scared squirrel when removing the load I’d brought from the trailer like all those folks pulling stuff from the backs of their Subarus did.

Once you’re wet, you’re wet, and you realize it’s not really so bad, especially when you know you’ll start drying off and warming up as soon as you begin pedaling uphill.

And now, check it out, just two hours later, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and if it weren’t for Tim Lincecum pitching such a mediocre game for the third start in a row, all would be right with the world, at least here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One Concert Away

It occurred to me last night, as Jen and I reminisced over dinner and an evening celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary, that my own life would have been completely different had I gone to that Bruce Springsteen concert in Pittsburgh that I had tickets for back in the summer of 1975 (August 9th, according to this), before I headed off to the University of Chicago for my abortive one month-long stint as a student there.

Had I gone, I’m sure I would have fallen in love with the Boss and so, would have bonded with all my classmates in the dorm at U of C who were so similarly smitten with him that they blared “Born to Run” all day and night from the component stereo systems in their rooms; consequently, I’d have felt much more at home there and would probably have stayed, graduating after four years in 1979 before heading off to law school where my focus in corporate litigation would have seen me become a successful Hollywood agent, leading, of course, to a serious cocaine habit in the 1980s and no doubt, by this time, three failed marriages and a heart condition to go along with a string of kids in whose lives I never really took part.

As it was, I was the oddball who listened to King Crimson and Tangerine Dream and never really fit into the Windy City scene and by the time I finally did see Springsteen at the LA Forum in the fall of 1984, I couldn’t see what the big deal was all about especially when compared to the Talking Heads at the Hollywood Pantages during their Stop Making Sense tour.

In point of fact, I’m not entirely sure that life does work this way, but it’s amusing to wonder how differently things might have turned out if I hadn’t given those tickets away; no regrets, to be sure, especially in light of these last 23 years of joy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Waiting

The way I learned Samuel Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot,” Vladimir and Estragon aren’t hanging around for God; they’re there for some something that is only the thing being waited for because that’s what they’re waiting for, but if it were, it wouldn’t be; it’s paradoxical, oxymoronic, and above all, absurd; that’s the human condition: we live in a meaningless universe but must do so meaningfully.

Or to frame the question another way: if you’re dropped from your own ride, is it still your ride? Or only if people are drinking the booze you brought in a park that’s really more like just a rest stop beside an industrial motorway?

I myself had just a few conflicting thoughts about the juxtapositions; it was interesting, for instance, how quickly we got to our midway point destination and how fast cranberry drinks emerged once all the components were located and people started shinnying up poles; but it was funny, by contrast, how long we dawdled there, compelled eventually, only by the rain, and the arrival, just in time to leave, of whom we’d been waiting for all along, although it seemed to keep slipping people’s minds—mine, anyway.

The promise of song got things moving and lo and behold, by the time I got there French fries were already being passed around the room.

I was powerfully reminded how Goldies is always, and in my experience, only, awesome when it’s packed with idiots you know; the music wasn’t really in me so I focused on the suds instead, raising my tankard especially in honor of the late, great Ronnie James Dio to his signature “Holy Diver.”

A steady, but light spring rain offers only slight incentive to bail; however, after somebody’s pedal opens up a 12-stitch gash on someone else’s calf, it becomes apparent that absurdity is only absurd until somebody loses an eye, and since, paradoxically, mine were wide shut, I waited no longer to no longer wait.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


At two places along the Burke-Gilman trail today—near the Metropolitan Market in Ravenna towards Sand Point, and at the Lake Forest Park stop sign where I one got a ticket—there were groups of people passing out little orange squares of paper with a URL on it for some survey you should take to provide input on the Burke-Gilman trail. I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually, if I manage to locate the scrap of paper among the other stuff on my desk.

At work, we’re supposed to complete an employee satisfaction survey or maybe it’s a student engagement questionnaire; I can’t remember, although I’m certain I’ll do both if I find them time.

When I read the New York Times online, I periodically encounter a pop-up window that asks me to answer some questions about the electronic newspaper; I’ve yet to do so, but the one thing I would mention, if I could, would be that I’d like it better if those little pop-up windows never appeared.

I bought a new printer last week or so and when I registered it, they asked me to provide feedback to their system about where I purchased the unit and how I’d heard about it; you could get away without doing it, though, so I did.

Every night, we get at least one phone call from someone who announces first thing that they’re not selling anything, they just want to know what we think about some service or product or politician or something; whenever they call it a “courtesy call,” I immediately think, “No it isn’t; it’s a rudeness call,” and hang up as soon as I can.

I don’t know what everyone is supposed to be doing with all this data or why they think having it will make any difference; this may be because I just don’t really care.

But I suppose if we’re really going to know for sure, we’d better conduct a survey.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Six Bags Full

As I was rolling into the parking lot at Lowe’s, some guy asked me how many 2x4’s I could carry on my Haulin’ Colin bike trailer. I answered, “As many as I can haul,” which, I guess, might be construed as circular reasoning, but what I meant was: there’s no limit, really, to how much you can fit in the trailer, just as long as you can still pedal forward with your load in tow.

In any case, I think I pretty much reached my upper boundary with the six bags of compost I brought home. I reckon that was about 200lbs of payload, not really a problem on flat ground, but mighty tough sledding going up Martin Luther King Boulevard from the hardware/lawn and garden store.

Still, I made it, and more to the point, the trailer performed admirably, rolling smoothly and with all the stability of a centipede. Even though I was huffing and puffing up the street, my two-wheeled friend behind me carried on without complaint. And when I got to enjoy the little downhill right before pulling into my back alley, I was able to completely let go and fly, confident that the cart would remain safely behind the horse where it belonged.

The clerks at Lowe’s got a kick out of watching me pedal away; “Good luck on your ride,” said one of them, laughing. And the day-laborer dudes hanging out looking for work by the store driveway’s entrance were all jealous that they didn’t have a rig like mine—at least that’s how I interpreted all their pointing and grinning.

The trailer doubled as a wheelbarrow when I got home; I was able to roll it up right next to our garden and pour the bags into our raised beds without having to lug them through the yard.

Try doing that with your pickup truck!

Once again, the Haulin’ Colin trailer saves not just the world, but your back, as well!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walk-Off Win

The Mariners had their first walk-off win of the season yesterday.

Not that I care, but I did notice that my evening was sort of like that, too.

Even though I didn’t pogo around home plate and push a shaving cream pie into the face of my hero, I did sort of get to have the experience of a ride that was just “meh” turn delightful in its final stages, as I ran into the non-Thursday night ride contingent of .83 who had, apparently, ridden to the Elysian after seeing some sort of film or something like that, but the important thing was, my pedaling around town wasn’t in vain even though it really hadn’t been beforehand, despite the fact that most of the night was an object lesson in how it’s not quite the same to go places on a bike Thursday night and drink drinks at them when you’re not accompanied by several dozen other like-minded and similarly inebriated two-wheelers out for a tour.

I kind of knew that, at 10:30, the only way I might run into the main contingent was to head north, but I still felt compelled to ride south, so I passed by a few of the usual suspect haunts and even ended up at the 9lb Hammer for a while, so in a way, I got to have the weekly ride experience without really having it. At midnight, then, I decided to head home, as is often my wont, and thought “Why not swing by Capitol Hill just in case?” and lo and behold, there was a little bike pile outside the pub so inside I went, just in time for last call and half a dozen people I generally enjoy seeing on the cusp of the weekend.

Call it a success: I closed down the joint and got to have a moment with my favorite soon-to-be-departed math geek; I’m sure we talked about fascinating things right through the unexpected conclusion.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In philosophy class today, I had students explore a widely-anthologized essay called “An Encounter with David Hume,” by the contemporary philosopher of science, Wesley Salmon, in which he examines the British Empiricist’s observation—which Salmon refers to as “Hume’s Bombshell”—that because inductive reasoning is based on a logical fallacy (essentially affirming the consequent), we really have no better reason to believe the claims of science than we do the claims of pseudoscience or even random divination. Salmon, following Hume, points out that since predictions about the future based on past events depend on claims about the regularity of nature whose justification depends on that regularity, that the whole project of scientific reasoning turns on an argument that is question-begging, and so therefore, strictly speaking, it is irrational for us to conclude that what happened yesterday is going to happen tomorrow.

I get it (and I think students mostly did, too, especially after we did an exercise that had them designing and creating devices intended to protect an egg from breaking when dropped from about 8 feet), but unfortunately, it does seem to me that the future ends up not only behaving much like the past, but pretty much mirroring it, one day after another, year after year, with little hope of change in sight.

Examples abound:

• The oil spill in the Gulf, just the latest version of our hunger for petroleum getting the better of our care for the environment.

• The Mariners tanking to start the season, this year’s model of the team that can just never get it together.

• The stock market vacillating wildly, eerily reminiscent of the last financial meltdown.

• Yet another 327 word essay, covering some sort of turf that’s been excavated and tilled numerous times before.

So, in short, even though, strictly speaking, it’s irrational of us to expect the future to behave like the past, it sure seems like déjà vu all over again.

Again and again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Trailer Love

I bought a new printer from Fry’s online about two weeks ago; it turned out to be kind of a piece of shit, so I wanted to exchange it for something more like the one we had that we liked until it gave up the ghost after around two years, so I decided to ride my bike down to Renton—13 miles away—and hit up the electronics superstore in person.

Enter the Haulin Colin’ trailer to make that not only possible, but pretty enjoyable, too. Instead of fighting traffic on the 405 Freeway, I enjoyed a fairly leisurely ride along Lake Washington with the old printer safely ensconced on the trailer bed on the way down and the new one strapped securely on the way back. The only headaches, really, were trying to find all the manuals, cables, and software disks that went in the old box and then having to beg and plead a bit with the manager at Fry’s to let me do an exchange in person even though I had purchased the unit on the internet.

Oh, and there was that lady who drove past me on the way home and rolled down her window to tell me that I should “use more caution” when I rode my bike, I think because I didn’t run into the back of a parked car, but rather, swerved around it and maybe a foot or two into her lane as she approached to pass me. Other than that, though, it was trailer love the whole way there and back and only made me more confident that Haulin’ Colin trailers will save the world, or at least a small part of it when I get the first run of 20 back from the powdercoater in about a month and start selling them like hotcakes all over town.

The trailer makes me happy every time I use it; soon others will be able to share the love, too.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I’ve heard tell that fish don’t know that they’re in water, and whether that claim is true or not (I kind of doubt it; I’m sure they know when they’re NOT in water, but anyway…) the message is a good one: we obviously come to take for granted that which is all around and pay much less heed to the commonplace, even if—when you stop to reflect—that regular, more or less everyday state of affair is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty fucking remarkable.

Take last night’s bike ride, for instance. Please.

We didn’t cover that many miles; the shenanigans, such as they were, tended towards the tame; nobody really showed up as a problem; and the outside fire around which we stood never really got higher than anyone’s head.

I even saw a lot of yawning going on and heard vague references to recovering from last weekend’s Ben Country Five and pacing oneself for the now ongoing Seattle Beer Week.

Still, upon reflection, isn’t it just over-the-top incredible to live in a place and time where such marvelous mundanities are possible as riding the back way down cobblestones through Pike Market to the water, or congregating under the West Seattle Bridge to load up on faggots left by the Wood Fairy, or arriving at the beach just as the sun slips beneath the horizon although many moments of twilight remain to be savored, or fucking A: getting to be outside, on the edge of the continent more or less, of a warm, soft spring night, having arrived under your own power, with plenty of beer to drink and, in my case, a basket of hand-cut French fries right from the fryer, how about that for the quotidian?

For me, too, it had been a while since I’d pedaled to the sands of Alki, and never so early in the evening, and come to think of it, a fire is pretty unusual.

Every time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Be Like Me

Nobody’s a bigger narcissist than me. (That’s a joke, get it?)

But let’s just assume it’s true.

Or let’s assume that I adopt the existentialist perspective, as proposed by Sartre in his essay, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” that, in the absence of any purpose or design to the universe, I am, in virtue of the choices I make, implicitly choosing for all of humanity (thus the anguish one feels over the weighty import of any choice), or, to put it the way Gandhi is purported to have: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” then in my uniquely self-centered way, I can’t help but imagine a world in which everyone lived more less as I do, or, at least, an America, let’s say, in which everyone adopted my way of life, including driving a car as little as possible, eating no meat, keeping the thermostat turned down way low enough to generally freeze out the wife and kid, and I wonder—in spite of how ridiculously crowded the busses would be and how impossible it would be to ride bikes on the Burke-Gilman trail—whether or not it would be enough to stem the spewing of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, or, at the minimum, get the parts per million of CO2 in the air below Bill McKibben’s target of 350.

The thing is, none of it’s a hardship for me; I wouldn’t want to drive any more than I do, and it’s no privation for me to eat only shoots and leaves; I can’t imagine why people everywhere aren’t clamoring to live the way I do, which reminds me, I guess, of the lady who told Bertrand Russell that she was a solipcist and couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more people like her, but come to think of it, that’s just the sort of joke that only someone with a sense of humor just exactly like mine would find even mildly amusing.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Eyes Right

At the QFC in Belfair, where the ride stopped on purpose for provisions, members of the local Lion’s Club were collecting donations for “White Cane Day,” and when I gave the guy five bucks for his cause, he handed me a little plastic cane with a tag on it that said “Sight Conservation Day,” and it made me think how I’ll always want to conserve in my mind’s eye all the amazing sights I got to witness during the 24 hours or so of the fifth annual bicycle-camping clusterfuck in celebration of the Angry Hippy’s birthday, Ben Country.

Here are few of the images burned into my brain forever:

• The rainbow arch over the road in the deserted woods near Purdy Creek that accurately showed us which of the three possible directions to take, obviously.
• The charming peace shrine not far from the Robin Hood Cottages with all manner of icons, including Elvis, Mickey Mouse, and Jim Beam, too.
• Our campground, accessible only to bikes, nestled alongside the Skokomish River, its car-free roads paved in moss and pine needles, its sky overhead brilliant with endless stars and even the Milky Way.
• The guest of honor, in red seersucker jacket and a fucking ascot, but still as fearsome to foolishness (except his own) as ever.
• Faces encircling the fire, laughing, lying, and bragging, none leaving except momentarily, for the magic dutch-ovened peach napalm feeding frenzy.
• Back-from-the-dead Derrick pouring liquor into people’s mouths and spitting flames into the fire from his own.
• The little triangle of sky I examined through the vestibule of my tent as I fell asleep to the ongoing nonsense, voices rising and falling as if people were riding a roller coaster, which—if you conserve the sights—it’s easy to see that that’s exactly what it was for everyone who got to have their eyes opened wide in the Country of Ben one more year in a row.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I pity them, I really do.

There they go, passing by me in their plastic stretchy tights, their uncomfortable shoes with metal tabs on the bottom, panniers full of their work clothes, I guess, neon coats over jerseys advertising some sort of product or another, and besides that, they’re all riding as fast as they can, suffering, really, like Tyler Hamilton in the 2005 Tour de France, gritting his teeth so hard he had to get all his teeth capped.

This is the thing, you see, bicycling doesn’t have to be something you can only do after you get all dressed for it; a person can wear his everyday clothes and still get from one place to another on two wheels, especially if, like me, he or she goes relatively slowly and decides to enjoy more or less whatever presents itself.

I found today’s commute out and back to school surprisingly difficult; I kept looking at the bushes on the side of the trail to see if I was fighting a headwind, but none of them were leaning; apparently, I had no excuse for being so weak other than being weak. Nevertheless, I made it both ways, albeit with a stop for a couple of beers to enable me to ascend the last couple hills this afternoon.

But see: I didn’t have to change clothes or anything to look relatively normal at the bar; I didn’t have to sit there with my nuts hanging out of my polyester pajamas; all I had to do was remove my helmet and I looked as normal as I ever do.

Now, maybe if I wore cycling-specific clothing, I could ride faster, but then I’d have to do so. In my jeans and regular shoes, I can manage to remain at a pace that’s sustainable and which prevents me from finding excuses not to ride.

I’m glad all those people are so into cycling; it’s sad, though, they look like it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Losing Sucks

Bad weekend in sports: the Mariners drop three in a row, the Pens lose at home to Montreal, and Bill’s Off-Broadway Chuggers and Sluggers get swept in back-to-back doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, three of those losses coming by one run.

None of this should bother me, of course, but it does, although when I put it in perspective against, say, the Gulf coast oil spill, I can see that really, it doesn’t matter at all. Nevertheless, it is an annoyance, one that rankles just enough to compel me to squeeze out 327 words about it on a quiet Sunday evening in May.

In some ways, the softball losses were the toughest; we went 10 innings in the first game on Saturday and if I’d have been a more aggressive third-base coach, I think we could have won it in the bottom of the 7th, but I refrained from sending our best player home with two outs, confident that the next person up would drive him in—but that didn’t happen and four innings later we went down to defeat.

I think I can shrug the Penguin’s loss of the easiest; it’s only the second game of the best of seven series and I don’t think Montreal’s goalie can keep up his stellar play throughout.

The M’s losses were certainly the most infuriating; at this point in the season, they’re stranding more men than Hurricane Katrina, although unlike that natural disaster, the team is leaving them high and dry.

The Chuggers and Sluggers were kind of snakebit like that, too; we squandered a bunch of scoring opportunities, mostly because, I think, we’re all thinking too much. Normally, the solution to this is more beer, but nobody seemed in all that much of a mood for getting trashed; instead, we took our turns at bat with remarkable sobriety; I went 2 for 6 for the afternoon and woke up today quite sore—not just muscles, but heart, too.