Friday, September 30, 2011


Oddly enough, the first autumn visit to the very same park this year was way more summery than the last time we went, right by the season’s solstice.

But that’s weather in the Pacific Northwest, where the only thing you can count on is not being able to count on it, which is why you take every opportunity possible to squeeze the very last juice from a surprisingly mild September evening and pedal to the favored seaside location as fast as your little legs can carry you.

World-record time was made to the traditional provision stop, a destination that typically doesn’t show up until at least an hour later in the course of events. Still, at this point in the year, it was already dark by our arrival around the fire pit where even non-stop kibitzing from the peanut gallery wasn’t enough to put a damper on Joeball’s flame-coaxing skills, although before the cheery blaze sprung to life some wags were calling for the cashiering of his Single-Match Club merit badge.

It was one of those nights where that question frequently asked by folks on the street as our hobo peleton rolls by—“What’s this for?”—was simply self-evident: bike-riding, beer-drinking, standing around an outdoor conflagration bullshitting and then screaming at the top of your lungs when a train roars by and the usual suspect launches a beer bottle to doink or crash atop the freight cars.

Isn’t that all the answer anyone needs?

Themes, of course, are delightful and surely on the horizon as the costume and holiday seasons beckon, but there’s also much to be said for simply kickin’ the old skool essentials, including dark paths through the woods and that most elemental of shared human experiences around a common hearth.

It never gets old (in contrast to yours truly) but then why should it? This worked just fine for our hunter-gatherer ancestors ten thousand years ago, no surprise the it's still warming human hearts today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


As of today, and after almost ten months—six and change of sabbatical and three-plus of vacation—I am back in the classroom teaching college students.

Should be a busy quarter; I’ve got a couple of classes at Cascadia, and then, this is one of those times when “Professor Dave” is officially a professor: I’m teaching at the University of Washington, too.

Naturally, I have a bit of trepidation about jumping back into the fray. I always wonder if I remember how to do this thing when fall rolls around and that feeling is only amped up by my experience over the year so far.

Still, I’m confident that there’s something of the “riding a bike” aspect to it. Once I’m there, working with students, I imagine it will all (or at least most) come back to me. I’ve been doing this long enough that certainly there’s some “muscle memory” at work. Or, so I hope.

I’m eager to infuse my teaching with some of what I imbibed during my time as a student in India. Above all, I hope I can bring to my students here some of the seriousness with which students at the yoga shala approached our studies there.

To that end, I’ve made one small change to all my syllabi that, I’ve been joking, indicates that I’m truly an old fogey.

Up until this year, I’d always resisted having a cell phone policy in my classes. I’d hoped that the fascinating things being done in class would discourage students from checking their text messages, emails, and Facebook statuses during our time together. In recent years, though, this has proven overly optimistic; more and more many students have found it impossible to go the entire two hours (with a break) without a hit or more of their devices.

So now, I’m stating on my syllabi that if students want to check their phones, they have to leave the room.

See how serious I’ve become?

Sunday, September 25, 2011


It was a Haulin’ Colin trailer extravaganza at the Moving Planet event yesterday at South Lake Union Park.

Besides my rig, four more of the venerable cargo-hauling beasts showed up, towed by various friends, colleagues, and customers who have also come to appreciate that awesomeness and planet-saving qualities of the world’s best-loved bicycle trailers.

I carried two coolers of ice, beer, and other necessities, along with a bike trainer stand to run the bicycle blender and make smoothies for passersby. Fancy Fred towed his Wal-Mart Sidehack BMX bike; Knox Gardner showed up with a cooler stocked with free sodas for kids; Colin himself dragged one of his creations; Ashok from BikeSoGood in Georgetown had his attached to an XtraCycle, and Art from came by with the one I’ve loaned to them for their growing business.

What was cool, I thought, was how the trailers themselves sort of disappeared into the background, but, in doing so, formed the foundation for pretty much everything that was going on.

In my case, for instance, people were really intrigued with the bike blender; many thought I was representing it. (I probably could have sold a couple of them.)

Likewise, everyone wanted to ride Fancy Fred’s Sidehack.

So, even though I passed out a bunch of business cards, I’m not sure it made for an incredible marketing event; the trailers, I think, sell themselves, but only to folks who want to buy them.

The Moving Planet event itself was reasonably impressive: there were probably 500 or so people there and Mayor showed up, too. I’m not sure all the do-gooders there are really making a dent against human-induced global climate change, but at least a lot of people rode bikes to get there.

I hardly moved from the spot I initially encamped in. Mostly, I tended to smoothie-making, which entailed getting people on my bike to pedal away until ice was crushed.

Probably not planet-saving, but pretty amusing after all.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Most of us, I’ll warrant, spend a good deal of our lives engineering out the ambiguity and uncertainty, so it’s comforting, in a way, to give it over occasionally, and just—as they say—STFU and ride.

One is able, then, to take a certain delight in the unraveling of the mystery as it spools beneath two wheels: “Aha! Tonight we go south.” And then, “East! It’s been a while.” Until, “I’ll be damned. Up and up north.”

But finally, it doesn’t matter, and trees fly by as you simply follow blinkies over the serpentine ribbon burrowing through our fair city’s arboreal core.

Autumn officially arrived last night, although, as Lee Williams pointed out to me, this is a celestial, not meteorological marker, indeed attested to by the warm coverlet of humidity that lay softly upon riders all along the lake and up through the woods.

And while that wet blanket, as he put it, did seem to impart a certain mellowness to the evening’s proceedings, it wasn’t as if it really reduced the level of joviality and shenanigans, especially after Specialist Sean made it rain pitchers of beer and shots of whiskey at the watering hole.

But then again, such manna from heaven was the theme as lo and behold, upon a word, did trays of hackin’ Heather’s victuals appear at the lake: spaghetti, chicken, and bread pudding that made the eyes of shirtless men roll back in their heads as they daintily shoved softball-sized portions into open mouths on tiny plastic forks with pinkies upraised.

Beers were launched towards torsos in the water, of course, as surely as random bottle rockets set skyward in Wizard Staff Park were earlier.

Surprisingly, the authorities steered clear (at least on my watch), perhaps they too, subject to the mollifying effects of the evening’s atmosphere.

Really, I have no idea, which is just how I like it come fall.

Sometimes, all one need know is how not knowing nourishes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


One of my students last year said that her utopia would be a place without cell phones, computers, or the ongoing threat of global terrorism.

Seemed legit to me, albeit a bit surprising coming from a kid who regularly updated her Facebook page in class (yeah, I notice this stuff even if I don’t do anything about it), but what occurred to me at the time (and I mentioned it in passing) was that she pretty much described what my life was like what I was her age.

And what has occurred to me subsequently is that this is pretty much my utopia, too, at least in terms of sorts of activities I enjoy most of the time.

Except for sitting with my laptop on my knees and writing electronic text that I then post to cyberspace, everything I really like to do I could have done (and did!) when I was a wee lad of 14, way back in anno domini 1971.

Consider: bike riding on a steel bicycle with friction shifters and a leather seat. Reading books published in the early part of the 20th century, or even earlier. Yoga. Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers on TV. (Okay, HD is nice, but not critical, and I’m almost just as happy to listen on the radio.)

I’m perfectly satisfied eschewing the contemporary high-tech world in these pursuits; I don’t need the latest and greatest, newest and shiniest whatchamacallit to enjoy myself.

But then, again, I’m old.

Not ancient, mind you, but it’s going to be a long time before I’ve lived even half my life in the current century, so I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m used to doing things that were available to people way back when.

Had I been born a caveman, I’d enjoy nothing more than hunting and gathering, and painting pictures on the walls of caves.

Come to think of it, old is also probably why I prefer beer in a can.

Friday, September 16, 2011


There’s a delicate balance between tradition and novelty, but when it’s achieved, something remarkable occurs: a kind of timelessness ensues, in which past and future have no meaning and the present stretches out endlessly, an eternal now where all that ever was and will be merge as one.

Or maybe that’s just the space cookies talking.

In any case, last evening’s version of our annual memorial to the tragic events of 9/11/2001, “The Point 83 Never Forget How Fat You Really Are (I Forgot for a Little While) But Then I Remembered! Freedom Fry Eating Contest,” really did find that sweet spot between history and tomorrow with the perfect combination of old skool nonsense preceded by trails so new they have yet to be opened.

And the result was yet another occasion on which the very shamefulness of the event makes one proud to be an American.

Or at least kinda sick to your stomach.

But, of course, not nearly so ill as the “winner,” Shaddup Joe (who paid 8-1 on the nose) must be feeling this morning after downing 12, count ‘em 12, 16-ounce cups of deep-fried spuds, making “history,” I guess, in the process.

Because you see, forgetting is actually a kind of remembering, for in doing so, one recalls a time before the memory was formed—in our case, perhaps, an era of innocence before the terrorists attacked.

Thus, some healing takes place, incrementally, in passing.

All the balm I really needed, though, was to pedal en mass over a freshly-paved path along a former jungle with our fair city spreading out in all its industrial glory below and then relax a bit along the waterfront where locals jigged (jug?) squids from the dock.

These are the moments that connect us to what was and impel us towards what will be.

Or to paraphrase the timeless words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “We beat on, bikes against the current, born on ceaselessly into the past.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


At least 12 cyclists have died on the roads this summer in Washington, and the only thing sadder than that is reading the “Comments” section in online articles about their deaths.

My somewhat shaky faith in humanity crumbles when I peruse the hateful postings of people who use the opportunity of someone’s untimely demise to grind their axe about bicycle riders (or, for that matter, car drivers). Anyone who writes anything should imagine the dead person’s mother reading their words; maybe then they’d temper their vituperative with a bit of compassion.

As a longtime bicycle commuter, the deaths give me pause.

I’m not inclined to give up riding my bike in traffic, but I am made more aware of the dangers of doing so. I think I’ve been riding slightly more cautiously these last few days, which I think is a good thing, and I hope, an appropriate tribute to those fallen riders.

It’s also made me consider how I’d like to be remembered should a similar fate befall me.

Above all, if I die doing something dumb on my bike, I’d appreciate if my stupidity not be used as a justification for enacting stricter regulations on cycling—especially, for instance, not changing our beloved RCW 46.61.790.

Beyond that, a ghost bike would be nice, but I’d rather that whatever old clunker might be used were fixed up and donated to BikeWorks.

Love to have a big fucking memorial ride, if possible. Encourage the usual nonsense and shenanigans and if it could end with a bunch of inebriants and their two-wheelers standing around a fire late at night, that would be great.

Just get home safe, okay?

Of course, I don’t foresee any of this actually taking place, but then neither did those dozen we mourn this year, Robert “Storm” Townsend the most recent among them.

And one last thing: should I die while biking, please keep the “Comments” section on the online article about it closed.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I never quite understand it when people say “Your body is a temple;” to me, it’s always seemed more like a spaceship.

After all, it’s not like you get down on your hands and knees and pray to your spleen or whatever; you do, on the other hand, continually use your physical form to carry you wherever you’re going, whether that’s down the block for a drink at the local bar or into outer space to commune with aliens among the heavenly spheres.

No matter how spiritual any one of us is, it’s still the case that everything we do, as long as it’s us doing it, is done through out bodies. Even if I’m lying on my back, staring at the inside of my eyelids, spacing out on a Pink Floyd record, I’m still doing it corporeally. My mind may travel to other places, but only metaphorically.

I suppose it’s possible that this might change after I die, but as long as I’m alive, it’s impossible for me to have an experience that doesn’t depend on the workings of my physical form.

I’m not necessarily taking a so-called hard-core “physicalist” position here, whereby I’m maintaining that all of my mind states are identical with brain states, but I am proposing that nothing that goes on for me goes on without something parallel going on in my body.

Which is why it seems so strange to me that so many people treat their bodies with such disdain. (I’m not exempting myself, either; I run mine hard and put it away wet all the time.)

But it was funny at the car wash yesterday, where Mimi and I took the Ford for its annual clean-up, so see these guys lovingly polishing their automobiles while smoking cigarettes with their fat guts hanging out all over the place.

Maybe they’ll get 100,000 miles out of their vehicles; what’s the chance of getting a full three-score and ten from their hearts?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On this, the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we are all being admonished to “never forget” that fateful day on which, as they say, the world changed forever.

Of course, with all the media coverage, you’d have to have some kind of advanced case of Alzheimer’s to be unable to recall what happened, although, I do have to admit, I’m not always entirely sure what we’re supposed to be remembering.

Is it the lives of the people who died? While this is indeed the most poignant aspect of the day, I daresay that those of us who weren’t personally friends or relations with any of the deceased can’t really remember someone we never knew, so all we’re doing is keeping in mind the idea of those folks, and frankly, not so much their lives as their tragic deaths, which frankly, strikes me as an odd thing to focus on.

Is it the terrorist attack itself? I can see the point of wanting to hold on to that as a reminder of actions we despise and despair of, but it also strikes me as perhaps empowering the wrong thing; shouldn’t we be more concerned about preventing something like that from ever happening again?

Is it what we were doing and where we were when the events transpired? This is what we’re hearing from most quarters, but really, who cares? It’s all the same story for everyone who wasn’t there: we glued ourselves to the TV and stared in mute horror the entire day.

What I certainly don’t want to fix in my head is that image of George W. Bush reading The Pet Goat in the direct aftermath of the attack. If I could erase that from my memory, I would.

One thing I would like to hold onto is the sense of connection, community, and compassion that followed (at least for a while), after the attacks. That, I hope, I’ll never forget.

Friday, September 09, 2011


There’s got to be some religious sect somewhere that believes that this right here is the afterlife.

But if there isn’t, I’m starting one, because I don’t know how else to explain an evening like last night, which certainly seemed to embody many, if not most of the qualities I’d be looking for in a place to settle down for all eternity.

I mean who wouldn’t want to go through that tunnel of white light and end up on a bicycle, enveloped in a contingent of your fellow two-wheelers as you pedaled to the nicest beach in town, where you could then lie on your back in the water and gaze up at the celestial sphere with a nearly-full moon rising behind the evergreens?

That would be enough of a paradise for me, but then when you add to that an hilarious and probably unnecessary climb straight up some of the steepest of the steep to find yourself atop an Olympus you then get to bomb right down, well, what else can one conclude other than that this is some kind of divine reward for whatever has gone before or some such thing?

Besides, when we arrived at the trail we were seeking, there was a moment when we almost didn’t take it, so I’m thinking it just had to be supernatural guidance that convinced us to ride the twisty route after all—and it certainly looked like something out of God’s own home movies the way the blinkies ascended the tortuous path to the summit.

And then, the bar was filled with angels!

Of course, maybe in Elysium the car wash won’t stop even if the cyclists don’t align their wheels on the rollers just so, but then, not getting totally soaked is probably a sign from above, as well.

Not that the fire wasn’t a gift from the gods, too.

And I’ll be damned if we didn’t make last call at the final stop.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011


You know how people say that the reason the terrorists attacked on 9/11 is because they hate our freedoms?

I’ve come to believe that this is the same reason some car drivers get so incensed about bike riders, as well.

Read the comments section in any online article remotely related to bicycles, and you’ll come across lots of postings that rail against cyclists flaunting the law: running red lights, zooming through stop signs, being intoxicated at the helm of a moving vehicle. The general sense I get from these complaints from car drivers is something like: “Hey! We can’t do that, so neither can you!”

It drives them mad to see people getting away with something they’re prevented from doing. What car driver wouldn’t enjoy cutting onto the sidewalk to avoid sitting in traffic? Show me someone behind the wheel of an automobile who woudn’t love running red lights. And man, wouldn’t driving be more fun if you could occasionally get away with doing it while buzzed?

But you can’t!

So no wonder drivers gnash their teeth and rend their hair when they see cyclists getting away with this shit.

They hate our freedoms, see?

A couple years ago, early on a Sunday morning, I was pedaling to my local coffee shop and came upon a red light at a six-way intersection on Capitol Hill. Caddy-corner from me was a car, who also had a red. I slowed, looked both ways, saw that no one was coming from either of the directions that had the green and rode on through.

The guy in the car started honking at me and yelled out his window: “Hey! That’s a red light! You’re supposed to wait! What if I ran the light?”

I looked at him and smiled: “Get a bike and you can.”

This probably didn’t make him view bicyclists more favorably, but if he didn’t hate my freedom as I pedaled away, at least, I hope, he envied it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Biggest cargo bike ride ever!

I’ll bet there were a hundred people, including around a dozen or so children, hauled on various contraptions like the two on the Xtracycle with the sticker on it that said “One less minivan.”

No surprise, though, on the turnout, given the perfect weather and more importantly, that the ride functioned as an informal memorial for the beloved Val Kleitz, whose recent passing leaves a huge hole in the heart of the Seattle bicycle community, but whose own heart, I’ll bet, would have been warmed by the sight of so many folks out on two wheels carrying all they needed for a festive picnic in his honor at a lovely outdoor park on a beautiful late summer day.

It was deeply moving to see all the folks whose lives were touched by Val’s; for one thing, it was like the Hall of Fame of local bicycle mechanic royalty. I almost wished I had some sort of catastrophic failure of my bike just to see the assembled spring into action and fix it with zip-ties and bent spokes or something. As it was, however, my cargo bike performed beautifully, even when the ride took us through wooded pathways and gravel trails.

Momentarily, when we strayed from a more direct route to our destination, I was miffed, but then it occurred to me (no doubt inspired by Val’s spirit) that efficiency is not the only value. What about beauty, camaraderie, nature, physical endeavor, and fun? Why was it bothering me that I had to ride my bike a little farther than I had expected? Wasn’t pedaling around with people the whole point?

After that, I was delighted to go wherever the route took us as it wound around some of the prettiest spots Montlake and Ravenna have to offer, until eventually we arrived at the picnic, ready to drink beer and eat potato salad with a cone wrench, as Val himself was famous for.

Friday, September 02, 2011


At the bar, after a lovely hour or so cavorting in a park perched high atop West Seattle’s south end, and following that thrilling downhill during which, for me, at least, all the green lights were made, the Angry Hippy and I were talking about Aristotle, specifically, the part in the Nichomachean Ethics where he wonders whether a person can be made unhappy after he is dead.

Consider a scenario in which a man dies having provided well for his family and leaving a fine reputation as a scholar and citizen; in short, having lived what we would judge to be a happy life. Then, however, through a series of misfortunes and happenstance, his legacy is completely lost; his heirs suffer deeply and his once-proud reputation is utterly tarnished; he comes to be seen as a charlatan and a fraud; in other words, the life that earlier seemed happy turns out to be something completely false and empty.

The question is: would we still say the man lived a happy life?

Aristotle’s conjecture is that we wouldn’t.

Happiness, for him, is a state that needs to persevere over time; his famous quote in that regard is: “One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

It is with confidence, therefore, that I can assert how happy indeed is the Thursday night bike ride; half a decade of delightful adventures have rolled for me under its ever-turning two wheels.

Last night, I got to appear, a bit late, at yet another location in our fair city to which I’d never been, and come upon several dozen cyclist-shaped bodies back-lit against the Seattle skyline. Shades of E.T. being pedaled before the harvest moon.

Such events, each one unique, add up. No brief time of happiness; rather, a multitude.

How can this not, then, be a happy life?

Indeed, one to die for.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


My friend, Julie, rightfully warns me that I have a “rude awakening” ahead of me in the next couple weeks. No doubt.

After almost nine months of pretty much only doing what I want to do, I’ll be back at school, adding to the mix of my daily activities a lot of what I have to do whether I want to or not.

I’m a little nervous about it, but remain reasonably confident that I’ll adapt; in no more than a month, I’m sure, it will be like I never left and I’ll automatically rise when my alarm goes off, shovel breakfast into my mouth, and make my way out into the big wide world of higher education to help prepare young minds for the challenges of being competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st century.

Right now, though, I want to savor my last few weeks of “freedom;” the only constraints on me, really, are those emanating from my mind, which—as is its longtime wont—is consistently trying to kill me.

The Hindus say that the observation that you can observe your mind is evidence for there being a Universal Self that transcends the individual self. It’s something like the idealism of Bishop Berkeley in the West; “to be is to be perceived,” and all that.

See? I’m already doing philosophy and I’m not even on the clock yet.

It’s been a good ride, this sabbatical morphing into vacation thing; I can’t imagine I’ll ever have an opportunity like this again, at least until I retire—although what that’s going to look like in the upcoming era of no Social Security ought to be interesting to say the least.

In Hinduism, the stage of life after work is when you renounce worldly possessions, go into the woods and live in a hut to study the sacred text; I’m thinking maybe I can just pack a touring bike and do something similar on two wheels.