Thursday, June 30, 2011


The family and I have been in the world’s greatest city for the last few days while I attend a philosophy for children conference and they wander about visiting art galleries; now, I’m done and we’ll play together for the next 48 hours or so.

As always when I visit Manhattan, I feel like the proverbial country mouse, awed by the big buildings, vast underground rail system, and sheer crush of humanity everywhere you go.

We’re on the Upper West Side, where I’ve never spent much time, and the conference was at Columbia, where I’d never been before at all. It feels like a Woody Allen movie in these parts, with lots of skinny old women and red-faced bald guys who always seem to be arguing over something that could easily be rectified by looking at a subway schedule or consulting a map or something like that.

I’ve been doing yoga at this studio, Pure Yoga, right down the street, that’s more like a high-end health club than a temple, like I’m used to, but the amazing facilities sort of outweigh the weirdness of having mats that are color-coded with the rooms and norms that include just leaving your sweat-soaked towels on the ground for people (of color, naturally) to pick up after you.

The philosophy for kids conference was pretty great: lots of talks from people involved in this practice that, after a decade and a half of involvement on my part, it turns out I’m sort of almost a figure in. Oddly enough, even though the practice itself is highly-interactive, I was one of only a couple folks who really engaged the audience in some sort of activity.

But, I only fell asleep and drooled on myself once, and that was during the last talk on the last day, so not bad.

Now, though, it’s two days of wide awake as I get to wander about, too, starting today with a visit to Coney Island.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I “raced” in the initial event of this weekend’s “Rebel Without a Cog” series of fixed-gear cycling events on Friday night, and while I didn’t win anything, I was competitive, at least in the challenge I undertook, and most importantly, managed to pedal around town for a couple hours without coasting while managing to not forget I had no freewheel, thus succeeding in refraining from launching myself over the handlebars of the Quickbeam, even as I hurried to complete the tasks outlined on the race manifest.

Local cycling hero, Rob Kittleson, whom I’ve had the pleasure to run into at a variety of events, including the North American Bike Polo Championships a few years ago, organized Friday night’s alleycat to have an ideal “race within the race” option for slackers like me who were unlikely to complete all ten or so checkpoints in the full race. Participants could compete for the green sprinter’s jersey by returning to the meet-up spot at Cool Guy Park as soon as possible after the start with three different bottles of beer from three different Seattle-based breweries.

While other racers who were considering this option debated which three brewpubs they could ride to the fastest, I headed straight fro the nearest QFC, which fortunately had pint bottles from the Elysian, Hales, and the Fremont Brewing Company.

Racing back to the start with the trio of beers in hand, I kept thinking of one of my dad’s favorite mottos: “Old age and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm every time.”

Unfortunately, there must have been someone—probably not older, but apparently more treacherous than me, because when I arrived, confident that I’d won, Rob pointed out to me on the starter’s table, three beers already standing.

Still, second place in the sprinter’s competition ain’t bad, especially when you’re not that used to riding fixed. And given that I didn’t go endo once all night, I consider the event a rousing success all around.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Not duel. Dual.

There was so much luminosity on the night of the almost longest day of the year that we needed two fires to contain it.

And each had its own undeniable charms: you could choose the indoor club with its closeness and café society or the out-of-doors, with all its windswept “Wuthering Heights” wildness.

But you had to accept the downside of your choice, too: claustrophobia and smoke inhalation under shelter or spitting rain just steady enough to make you feel like a Russian peasant standing out in it.

I found myself going back and forth and often splitting the difference, seeking Aristotle’s golden mean between the two, beneath the trees, where I could view both cheery conflagrations in relative comfort under the branches while still enjoying fresh air and the feeling of freedom that comes from standing by a huge body of water near the edge of a continent.

You could see how societies develop their own mythologies and how positions become ossified simply out of habit, so while I admired those who were loyal to their own flames all evening, I also acted the emissary, inviting the easterners to visit the west and vice-versa, with some success.

It was an evening on which accidental traditions were considered, but rejected in favor of old favorites and what I found most remarkable early on was how remarkable a stream of several dozen bicycles on the road appeared to so many people. Tourists leapt from pastry shops to snap cellphone pictures of what one loudmouth termed “The Bikealists!” At least three different not-quite-right folks shook their fists at us, including a toothless hag who shouted, “I hate you motherfuckers!” And a pitbull lathered itself into a frenzy barking as we pedaled by.

And wonder of wonders: no broken collarbones (as far as I know) leaving the park, although admittedly, I wasn’t the last to depart, and both fires were still slightly aglow when I headed out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Since my summer class has been cancelled due to lack of interest (I’m shocked there weren’t at least 25 students at Cascadia Community College dying to take a course in “global” philosophy, which would have included yoga and vedic chanting; alas), I’m now officially on vacation.

My sabbatical is over, and now I can get back to what I do best: puttering about my house, making plans for books I’ll never write, running errands on my bike(s), and “reading” on the couch until my eyelids get heavy and the book falls from my grasp.

I’ll also probably start back up with the more regularly-scheduled 327-word essay. It’s doubtful that I’ll reprise my epic (and yet oddly-ignored by major media outlets) accomplishment of 327 days in a row of a 327-word essay, but I think I’ll probably average at least 3.27 of them a week.

There’s just something about the practice that helps me feel whole and which—given my impossibly low standards—has me feeling that I’ve accomplished enough for the day after I’ve written and posted a piece.

Besides, there’s no end of material upon which I can riff.

Case in point: the recent news story indicating that Bill Gates will only bequeath a “minuscule portion” of his fortune—something on the order of $10 million dollars each—to his children because he wants them to make it on their own.

Now, I’m not a Bill Gates hater; I realize he’s probably a way better person than me. But if he thinks that somebody with a $10 million dollar trust fund is someone who has to make it on their own, then I strongly encourage him to give me that same amount so I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps and self-make myself as quickly as possible.

At the very least, having $10 million on hand would enable me to keep puttering, planning, riding, and “reading” whether I have a summer job or not.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Team Pajamas was also Team Overslept as, for some unknown reason, my alarm didn’t go off for when I set it at 4:11.

I woke up and turned over to look at my clock: 4:47!


Figuring immediately that the organizers of this year’s “Nine 2 Five All Night Bicycle Scavenger Hunt,” Greg HXC and JSMG couldn’t possibly be completely inflexible about the 5:11am meet-up, especially since I’d be arriving with a bottle of vodka for 5 points on my manifest, I flung myself into some clothes and grabbed my most forgiving bike for the barely pre-dawn ride over to Gasworks.

And it all worked out, since points of the winning team—repeating their success of last year—were still being tallied and there even remained zucchini bread and coffee to go with Bloody Maries and Screwdrivers while we waited in the quicksilver morn for the inevitable results to be announced.

Besides, it would have been particularly unfortunate to have disqualified since this time around, I actually managed more of the course than in 2010, when I pretty much went straight to bed.

I hit two of the “dive” spots, anyway, before pedaling home where—instead of retiring immediately—I enlisted Jen in the effort and we rode the tandem over to the Twilight Exit where the bartender, Kylie, who, of course, like everyone, knows Hardcore Greg, gave me my race quota of Rainier puzzle bottlecaps, fished from her opener waste.

We also got a photobooth picture, adding 7 points to my total.

I was proudest of two of my scavenged items: first, for the 2-point “medals or trophies no lower than 3rd place,” I dug out my UW Excellence in Teaching Award” (first place grad student!) for 1999 and second, for the “Any Go Means Go or Bike Bloc event spoke card” I was able to pull together six different events from previous races, for 18 points, plus, reflexively, this year’s, for a total of 21.

Friday, June 17, 2011


If you’re ironic about your irony, does that make you sincere?

That’s what I kept wondering as the parade of cyclists wended its way along the Lake Union waterfront to the face-meltingly loud beat of tehJobies bicycle-mounted sound system, especially at the intentionally unintentionally hilarious moment when Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” poured forth from the speakers making me, at least, unable not to put the experience in quotes but also unable not to put that in quotes, too, so that somehow they cancelled each other out, leaving only authenticity, sincerity, and quite frankly, schmaltz.

And I came to the conclusion that there are some times that you just can’t help being delighted in spite of yourself, with no filter whatsoever, like when the birthday boy squeezes into an innertube and dons a snorkel for what seemed certain to be a hypothermia-inducing dip in the lake, but which instead turned out to merely be sobering enough swim that the odds-on favorite in my book to be passed out in a wife-taxi before dark was actually the responsible adult when it came to getting his date home on two wheels.

But I guess that’s the wisdom which comes with age, even though from my perspective, celebrating one’s 33rd birthday puts you only about halfway through adolescence, a sentiment I would have to say that the Roman candle and bottle-rocketing brandishing Mr. Ito seems to share in deed, if not word.

Our somewhat chilly summer still abides, but that was more than made up for by the softness of the sky and the magic lantern show afforded by the rising nearly-full moon, which, masked by clouds during its ascent, revealed community-theater special effect rectangles of yellow light on the horizon, much to the delight of all who turned their heads to look.

Eventually, there was spooky pedaling along the trail and a regroup at the local Viking-themed dive bar; I headed home, sated with fun, no quotation marks required.

Friday, June 10, 2011


If you take it in stages and don’t let on much about it beforehand, you can get people to ride their bikes pretty far for a drink at a bar on a Thursday evening, at least that’s how it worked last night, when we arrived in Renton via Beacon Hill to Rainier Beach almost before it got dark and certainly prior to many people realizing what they were in for in terms of distance and adventure.

In fact, the only real drama on the way there was the last block, winding around the one-way streets in the strange Twilight Zone time-warp 1950s stage set that is Seattle’s southern neighbor, when all of a sudden, on the previously deserted three-lane roadway, there were cars coming right at us, a phenomenon so unexpected that it took longer than it should have to convince riders that it was we, not they, who were going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Fortunately, however, the pub pulled up just in the nick of time and a pleasant hour or so was spent quaffing from a surprisingly large selection of beers while fielding amazed questions from a whole slew of patrons way more impressed with the facts of our two-wheeled journey than they should have been, an (over)reaction that no one, especially those few who wife-taxied it home, felt inclined to disabuse them of.

For the bulk of the pack who stuck it out, though, Joeball’s promised flat-ride back to Seattle was well worth the price of admission, including, among other things, a portage over the railroad tracks, many bridges to cross, and a long and fragrant spin along that elemental magic at our fair city’s heart, the Duwamish.

I was only good for a couple sips of beer at the final stop in South Park, before taking the western route home with a handful of riders pointed in a similar direction, still many miles to go, but in stages, no problem.