Thursday, June 28, 2012


The whole point of taking the summer off from teaching is that you get to do whatever you want, or more specifically, don’t have to do anything you don’t. 

So it’s a bit contrary to the spirit of the season that I signed myself up for a couple of professional responsibilities, namely a philosophy for children workshop for public school teachers and a community of inquiry conference in Vancouver, Canada this Friday and Saturday.

Consequently, I’m on the train, heading north from Seattle for a couple of days in Canada’s San Francisco, where I’ll sit in hotel rooms talking about big ideas for little people, an activity that, while I’m all for it generally, definitely cuts into the naptime that characterizes how I like to spend my time between June and September most of the time.

I guess I can’t complain too much; after all, I’m getting to do what I like to do more or less, but when I compare it to what I could be doing if I weren’t, then it does feel a bit like the days are going by more quickly than I wish they would, especially since it’s already the time of year that the nights are starting to get longer, incrementally.

The problem, of course, is exacerbated by our ability, as human beings, to look ahead and imagine the future before it arrives.  For example, I can already see July unfolding, then August, and before I know it, there I am back in the classroom and it’s almost like the summer never even happened.  I cast myself forward so quickly that I fail to experience the moment I’m in; instead of enjoying the days I have off, I start fretting about the days I’ll have on, and rather than enjoying a nap, I’m prepping for a class so far in advance that I’ll have forgotten what my plans were by the time it rolls around.

But what’s forty-eight hours after all?

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Of course, there’s nothing like riding a themed bike race to celebrate the season, but a close second is participating in one as a checkpoint assistant; even if you’re not pedaling around town, you can at least enjoy the fun vicariously, especially if you’ve got a job to do that appeals not only to one’s artistic sensibilities, but also affords you the opportunity to pretend to be the main character in a dish soap commercial or, failing that, perhaps an immigrant from a country victimized by American imperialism in the 20th century.

The main thing that struck me was the vast variety of shapes and sizes in the fingers and nails of the riders: long ones, short ones, bigger and smaller, cleaner and dirtier, but each able to hold tight to a bicycle handlebar in a day that began all stormy and cold but ended up quite lovely and clear, albeit until after sunset when the drizzle kicked in again.

Our stop had a fishing theme: racers had to hook a cheap beer from the Lake Washington shore and chug it before getting their fingernail painted by yours truly as proof that they’d completed the checkpoint’s challenge.  Many, fueled by competitive fire, rushed through the experience, but others, more in keeping with the approach I usually take in such events, lingered and chatted a bit with me and the other two volunteers manning (literally) the stop.

We gave not particularly helpful advice on route selection and race strategy, most of which, reasonably, was ignored.  It was quite heartwarming, frankly, to see the independent spirit and intrepid attitude of the young ladies; further proof, should one need it, that girlz rule and boyz drool.

Although we were pretty confident that the two and quarter hours we spent at the stop were sufficient to provide access for every rider, there may have been one for whom we left early.

If so, apologies are in order, or congrats on DFL.

Friday, June 22, 2012


In under a minute, and simply by pointing out a quartet of their extended cohort who were celebrating  high school graduation with a dip in the Puget Sound, did Joeball induce the cheerleader to utter what apparently is the rallying meme of the Class of 2012, “YOLO!” which doesn’t mean, as Soyoung had me believing at first, “You Obviously Love Owls,” but rather, is code for “You Only Live Once,” a truism which, though trivial, is not a bad principle to keep in mind when considering alternative courses of action on the nearly longest day of the year, especially when it’s a rare mostly sunny evening on what has been a typically dreary season so far.

Case in point: the knowledge that this current life is our one and only probably helped inspire us to ride up the steepy-steep from Alki to the secluded green space down the extra-gravelly path in order to better admire a sunset so lovely that when a sailboat crossed its golden rays on the water, a person was hard-pressed not to read the scene as a clichéd image painted by a Grandma in her first water-color class.

And the awareness that this time around is all there is no doubt also helped persuade the gang to climb even higher afterwards for a glimpse of the villa at Sunset and Seattle before riding the neighborhood spine down to Lincoln Park for the aforementioned Sound-watching among matriculating adolescents; and it certainly mitigated the annoyance I felt when I sunk my shoes not once, but twice into the sewagey bog behind the picnic tables.

Finally, knowing that I won’t experience Nietzche’s eternal recurrence, but will only get one shot at what the universe has to offer, was all the persuasion I needed to bomb brakeless down Genessee, a thrill that, though I have experienced it before, never fails to make me feel so alive that one life, even if it’s all I’ve got, is plenty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Alex at 2020 Cycle is tempting me to buy one of his lovely, custom-built Kalakala bikes, using the devious strategy of appealing to my sense of self-worth, my conception of personal identity, and the exact sort of anti-cool aesthetics that a semi retro-grouch bike nerd like me thinks are actually pretty cool.

That’s okay; I’m encouraging him to do it. 

I’m curious to see whether the process will result in my purchasing a bicycle I really don’t need, probably shouldn’t afford, and normally—given its lack of a one-inch threaded headset—wouldn’t look twice at, in spite of the frame’s magic paintjob that comes alive only in the sunshine.

But I keep being drawn back to the Kalakala like the proverbial moth to a flame, as Alex and the mechanics at his shop continue modifying it to fit my suggestions born from both theoretical speculation and empirical experience.

Initially, I thought the bike should run with mustache bars and road brake levers, sort of an update on the Bridgestone XO-1.  But when I rode it in that configuration, I felt too stretched out and pitched forward; it might be good for cyclocross, but for the kind of riding I do, not so much.

Now, they’ve got it set up with, something like these Velo Orange Montmartre bars and mountain levers, making it into a real “gentleman’s bike,” much more suited to my riding style, not to mention my generalized conception of what a fellow at my stage of life ought to be.

I’ve found the Kalakala’s steering a little quicker than I usually prefer and so have suggested some weight in the front to mitigate that.  Alex and I agreed that a cheap Wald basket is potentially the perfect contrarian choice, from the standpoint of both utility and aesthetics. 

When I left the shop yesterday, he was already planning to install it. 

And I’m already planning to ride over there today and see how it tempts me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I employed my usual strategy in this year’s Nine to Five All Night Bicycle Scavenger Hunt: arrive at the start, ride around a bit, head to the Twilight Exit bar for photo  booth opportunity and Rainier beer rebus bottle caps, then pedal home to scavenge myself of stuff lying around the house before turning in for a nap.

This year, though, due, I think, to the giant cappuccino I had about 10:00 in order to secure a disposable coffee cup with a business logo on it, I never quite fell asleep; consequently, I was up and back out the door before 4:00 to the cheerful twittering songbirds as I made my way through the pre-dawn streets back to Gasworks Park for the 5:00 meet-up and breakfast.

My proudest acquisition, apart from a tandem bike, which earned Team Nap five points, was my collection of eight Go Means Go spoke cards, including three previous Nine to Five versions.

One of these years, maybe I’ll actually stay up and out all night; I suppose it’s somewhat inimical to the spirit of the event to curl up under the covers for a few hours, but then again, even if I didn’t come home to sleep, it’s reasonably likely that I’d catch a few winks on a park bench somewhere, so why pretend?  May as well be comfortable, right?

It’s a shame, of course, to miss out on some of the late-night shenanigans; I didn’t get any drunks to sing the Dolly Parton song “Nine to Five” on video or anything; I did, however, garner a free drink at the coffee shop due to sporting my Point 83 sweater.  The barista said, “Point 83, huh?  Those guys are assholes.”

“You’re telling me,” I concurred.  “A bunch of drunken bike hobos.”

This earned me the aforementioned  cappuccino, gratis, and prepared me well for the rest of the night’s adventures, even if some of those involved staring at the ceiling in my bedroom.

Friday, June 15, 2012


One of the main lessons, as I understand it, to be taken from Vedic scriptures is the impermanence of all things.  The Buddhists talk about this, too, and, for that matter, modern science tells us the same thing: even our sun will eventually burn up and out, consuming the earth and destroying whatever remnants of human culture and history might still possibly remain—by itself an extremely unlikely prospect some several billion years from now.

Like the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said, “All is flux, nothing stands still.”  Reality is constantly emerging, oozing into and out of being; moreover, it’s all just illusion; there is only one unified All; we are merely whitecaps on the vast ocean of Being; in time, we fall back into the One that is Brahman that is Atman that is neither and both.

That said, however, it sure is fun to act as if we are individual monads travelling through space as we pedal about town, not quite sure at first where we’re heading, but relatively confident that as long as you can keep the bike in front of your in sight, you’ll eventually arrive at some place where drinks can be drunk, eats can be eaten, and stones can be skipped in a lake that, this year, at least, turns out to be too cold for anyone, even the putative birthday boy, to swim in.

Summer’s coming slowly this year, but the chill won’t last (nor, of course, will the warmth once it arrives), which only goes to illustrate the point from above: all of this is ephemeral, so we might as well enjoy it as much as we can, even if that means there’s not a perfect outdoor fire nor is the bar something new and different.

Because, after all, even the same thing isn’t ever the same; like Heraclitus said, you can step in that river over and over, all you want, but you’ll never step in it again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


You can be the best in the world at something. 

You just have to pick something that no one else does.

For example, I am undoubtedly the undisputed global master of the 327-word essay. 

I say this with a confidence that comes not only from having written hundreds of them, but also from knowing that nobody else on the planet has intentionally penned more the one. 

I didn’t set out to achieve international supremacy in this way; it just sort of happened.  Back in the mid01980s, I had a fanzine called 327 Words: A Publication by and For People Born on March 27.  In keeping with my theme, I tried limiting articles to 327 words, a size that enabled me to keep printing costs manageable.

When the internet tubes opened up a few years later, and allowed me to spew text much more freely without any financial implications, I decided to stick to my original format, and lo and behold, the 327-word essay became enshrined as a form for the ages, enabling me to ascend to the heights of literary excellence simply by engaging in a practice of no real interest to anyone besides me.

I therefore recommend this approach to all those out there who’d like to be known as the world’s finest in their chosen field; the key, of course, is to narrow the field as much as possible.

You’d be hard-pressed, for example, to be the world’s best violinist; there’s just way too much competition.  But it shouldn’t be too difficult to be the best two-stringed turtle-shell kazoo player alive, assuming, as I am, there you’ll find nary a one out there—at least as of this writing.

I suppose some might say that this a kind of a cheat, but I say it’s all how you look at things.  After all, even if you’re, say, the ten-millionth best tennis player alive, you’re still the number one world’s best ten-millionth tennis player out there.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Prior to last night, the previous laser show I remember going to was at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, with Jen, probably in 1988.  I’m pretty sure it was set to the music of Pink Floyd and I’m relatively certain we both found it fairly underwhelming.

Before that, I attended one at a museum in Golden Gate Park with an Italian girl I met on the streetcar earlier that day; we prepared for the event in what would be considered the stereotypical way for such an occasion circa 1975 and I recall the entire evening—again set to a Pink Floyd soundtrack—as one of the era's transcendent events.

Although last night’s expedition to the Pacific Science Center to catch the midnight showing of Laser “The Wall” wasn’t quite as marvelous as the latter above, it undeniably whelmed me; as I lay back in my chair, staring at the planetarium ceiling which was bursting with kaleidoscopic flowers and shimmering with cascaded tesseracts, I had several moments of real levitation, once again to songs from the Floyd oeuvre.

Of course, the whole thing was suburban mall rat cheesiness, through and through; I coulda been a guest on Wayne’s World for all the serious culture I was imbibing, (while, of course, movies at the Seattle International Film Festival screened just a few doors away), but there was also something rather heartwarming and old school about the whole thing; I’m pretty sure, for instance, that the laser operator is essentially responsible for what’s being shown and that he considers himself some kind of artist, even if that’s only within the confines and technical limitations of his chosen field.

This was the second experience I’ve had this week with psychedelic overtones.  On Wednesday, I saw a film called “The Substance,” which is a Swiss documentary about the invention of LSD and its use as a psychiatric tool in the late 1950s and early 60s. 

Mind-blowing, just like those kaleidoscope flowers.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


There’s probably a correlation between how busy and/or interesting one’s life is and how powerful is one’s appetite for writing about it and posting those words online for strangers to read.

 One might infer, therefore, that the general infrequency of my own online postings of late is evidence that I’ve been living large or, at least, have been occupied with other concerns than making sure I’ve posted 327 words of text each day for the world to access should it see fit.

 This inference wouldn’t be far off; the current quarter at school has been particularly busy and Jen and I (well, mostly Jen), were occupied for much of May with preparations for our 25th wedding anniversary bash, but as this entry on the weblog attests to, the times are changing; today is the last teaching day of the quarter and summers looms delightfully ahead like an oasis shimmering in the desert at which the thirsty traveler can refresh and restore himself.

 Last year’s sabbatical showed me what life could be like: day after day with nothing to do but what one wills oneself to do; there’s a certain heavy responsibility associated with that, but who doesn’t prefer that to the alternative: day after day when one’s choices are already specified by the clock and calendar? Sure, the existential weight gets lightened some, but the quotidian is exhausting.

 Liberty trumps predictability, for now, anyway.

 I’m sure there will be some days, say around August, when I’m sitting on the couch in the afternoon, falling asleep over my book, wondering whether what I’m not doing is what I ought to be doing; at the moment, though, the prospect of not having to be somewhere at pretty much every minute of every day is beyond delightful.

 I can make decisions based on the weather instead of the clock; like just now, I’ve typed this to wait out a rain shower before biking home.

 School’s out (almost) for summer, yeah!

Friday, June 01, 2012


You can have your pick of metaphors for .83: how about shuttered liquor stores and fresh booze aisles in the supermarket?  Or maybe an indoor firepit whose main power is to melt the ice in your drink?  Or something like bikes being carried down three flights of steps and then ridden straight up cliff-like hills?

But the one I think does a particularly fine job of capturing the spirit of the thing is how, in order to locate the hole in your tube, you’ve got to pump the shit out of it until it looks like some sort of hilarious donut hula hoop and that’s when you find what you’re looking for.

After all, many is the time the ride doesn’t really get started until things have been pumped up beyond all recognition so to speak and even though last night’s shenanigans never, (for me, at least), attained that transcendent level of overinflation, they were, in a word, sufficiently expanded that I could feel the telling whisper of air that lets you know the mystery’s been solved and you’ll be able to patch things up for another turn of the wheel in days to come.

Plus, as we stood en masse overlooking our fair city from the eastern slopes of Magnolia, there was that toddler ginger on his two-wheeler roaring dangerously around the cliff edges of the park again and again as if auditioning for admission to the drunken bike gang circa 2032 or so.

Alternately, I imagined that the little freckle-faced dude was actually our lord and master, the exalted reborn lama, showing us the way it’s done—albeit in a bodily form unrecognizable to normal perceptions.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  Getting to see what you usually don’t see, even if it requires you to go beyond the usual modes of observation.

And if that means you’ve got to risk the blowout in your face that deafens you, so be it, metaphorically speaking.