Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I’ve been blogging before blogging was invented. 

Way back in the 20th century, I had a “paper blog,”—a photocopied fanzine made up of short essays and articles whose format and content was essentially identical to the type of writing one finds on personal weblogs.

And then, in the early days of the internet, I created a web page with links to what I creatively called “editorials,” which were the precursor to the 327 word essays made famous by this site.

327Words has been around, in its present format, (more or less) since August of 2004; some 1500 postings are to be found here, almost half a million words, nearly as long as War and Peace, and thicker, if bound, than Infinite Jest.

So it’s time, I think, to call it quits.

All good things have to come to an end, and so, for that matter, does this weblog. 

No more will I expect myself to make regular postings to this site; no longer will I feel guilty about failing to do so.

A new day has dawned, one on which freed from the responsibility of feeling I must write a piece for posterity, I now have a good 15 or 20 unscheduled minutes to do more important things like drink more coffee or take a power nap.

Readers—all six or eight of you out there—will no doubt be relieved as well, as a whole new space can be opened up on your list of browser bookmarks.

Oh, I’ll still compose Point83 ride reports and no doubt I’ll occasionally be compelled to write and post a screed about this or that, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be in search now of greener pastures for my personal reflections about this and/or that; I may even branch out into essays of 400 words or more.

And, of course, there’s always my new book: Yoga, Cycling, and Pot: Ninety-Nine 327-Word Essays On Bending, Biking, Baking, and More.

Friday, August 24, 2012


As we rode along Eliot Bay, Fancy Fred regaled me with tales of cycling legend Jobst Brandt, who, as the internet attests to, used to cycle through the European Alps every summer, routinely burning up his rims and tires as he braked on the long descents, thereby giving rise, of necessity, to the development of his expertise as a wheel-builder, which just goes to show that destruction is sometimes (if not always) a required precursor to creation; from the ashes, phoenix-like, will rise something new, or at least the conditions for innovation to flourish.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that much will come from the smoldering palettes being sprayed down by an amused-looking firefighter in Fremont as I returned from Ballard after having departed from the ride remnants some thirty minutes earlier, although perhaps there’s a story that might emerge under the right conditions and in the proper time.

In any case, the main thing I thought in thinking about Jobst’s adventures is that while they’d be amazing, I’m sure, a person might just as well satisfy their appetite for stunning scenery while biking by touring the Puget Sound in summer, or even more specifically, just by pedaling around Seattle on an August evening when the sky is smudged with scattered clouds and the setting sun imparts a tinge of pink to their heavenly edges.

Later, on the dock with beer can chinking where I rode numerous extended figure-eights to keep warm, the quarter moon appeared in all its half-moon shaped glory, an apt metaphor, I’d say, for how words inevitably fail to capture the way things really are when you’re there out in it.

A cover charge inevitably split the group up, but no texts were needed to regroup: you just rode in the last direction people were headed and stopped at the closest bar. 

So maybe it wasn’t a summer tour of the Alps , there was still beauty there and tales to be told.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I sort of regret not riding the bmx bike off the ramp into the lake, but I’m certain that I’d regret a broken neck had I done it and failed even more, so I’ll be content with the memory of having been there and observed those flying wheels and bodies, enjoying the vicarious thrill of momentary weightlessness before two-wheeled splashdown on a perfect summer night for doing so.

P.J. Diddy celebrated his 35th birthday by turning 15 all over again and taking the sort of chances that as a teenager don’t even seem like chances but at a certain age struck me, (at least after a couple beers and in the twilight on a bike with no brakes), as falling just outside the boundary of acceptable risk—an assessment which I realize marks me squarely as over-the-hill, but that’s okay, discretion, as they say, being the better part of valor in some cases.

Besides, it’s not as if the evening needed improving on from my standpoint anyway: shirtsleeve riding all night and a long swim during which I had a fish-eye view of the riders as they went air and then water born, some getting rad, others holding on for dear life, all, in any case, to be commended for their courage and/or mocked for their recklessness accordingly.

The birthday boy himself managed to see stars on at least two of his jumps, one of which inspired Wonder Woman to leap into the lake after him in case rescue efforts were necessary, but fortunately, some precautions had been taken; the lifejacket did its job and no one sank to the bottom like a stone.

See?  As we live longer, we do learn some things—like how to live longer, for instance. 

And if that means going at it more gently, it doesn’t mean we’re not still seeking thrills same as ever, it just means we’re finding them more easily: like right there in front of our eyes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Heartwarming story out of Seattle this week: young woman has her beloved one-of-a-kind fixed gear bicycle stolen by some random douchebag; friends spring into action on the internet and mine the culprit’s data to find out where he lives; one guy camps out at his house, has a “chat” with him and convinces said dirtbag to return the bike.  Girl gets her trusty steed back and all is well with the world again.

I love that story, especially the part where the friends make laminated spoke cards with the thief’s picture on them and the text “I steal bikes” for good measure.

But this happy tale has made me kinda sad as it’s reminded me of my own unsuccessful efforts to recover a beloved bike that I had stolen (my goodness!) six years ago now, my beautiful Rivendell Rambouillet that was snatched from my backyard bike shed in the dark of night by some evil crackhead, never to be seen again.

I often wonder where the bike is these days.  Is it sitting in a police evidence warehouse somewhere?  Does a hobo ride it on the sidewalks with its handlebars turned backwards?  Could it be in China?  Or Portland?  Or maybe just down the street covered by tarp in my neighbor’s backyard?

I hope it’s getting used in any case; the Rambouillet was a bike that loved to run and it would be a shame if it’s just collecting rust and dust somewhere.

I wonder if today’s technology would have enabled me to retrieve it; I know that the thief returned to the scene of his crime that day afterwards to snatch back a bike he’d left and which I tried in vain to booby-trap by lacking to a palette.

The cops were no particular help, so it’s too bad I didn’t have a gang of technologically-astute supporters behind me; I may not have gotten the Rambouillet back, but I’d probably have a happier story to tell.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


I took a different route from the start of the 16th Annual Dead Baby Bikes Downhill than most of the field; consequently, for the first couple miles, I was mostly on my own, and started to feel like I’d missed most of the fun. 

But eventually, I met back up with the crowd on 4th Avenue and got to experience the thrill of streaming through Seattle’s streets with about a thousand other cyclists, some on tallbikes and other Frankencycles and plenty, it seemed like, out for maybe their first time all year on a two-wheeler, perhaps one dug out of the basement or borrowed from a neighbor.

Like last year, I pulled the trailer with a cooler of beer on it and while I didn’t have as many opportunities mid-race to pass out cold ones as in 2011, I did enjoy the numerous times that spectators yelled happily as I passed, “There’s the guy with the beer!” and maybe my favorite moment of all was when I traded a frosty Rainier to some fellow on the outdoor patio of a restaurant for a couple pieces of pizza.

The weather was just about perfect for a rolling clusterfuck and the warm sunny evening drew many more riders in addition to those who participated in the main event to Georgetown for the “Greatest Party Known to Humankind.”

I stuck around for a couple hours, taking in, among other things, the kiddie bike toss and running into loads of people I haven’t seen since last year’s Downhill, but as the evening wore on and the crowd morphed from bike geeks into douche bags, I made my way home with only a minor hiccup along the way: when I stopped to empty the ice from the cooler before climbing Jackson, I wrapped the unattached bungie around the wheel upon restarting.

Fortunately a guy on his way to the party loaned me a knife; a glimpse of another was all I needed.

Friday, August 03, 2012


At the end of the evening (for me), I was standing at the bar watching, from the corner of my eye, the oddly-compelling Olympic track cycling team time trial and reflecting on the noble human aspiration to work together in order to create something beyond the abilities of a single person while continually striving for ever-higher levels of performance, but, of course, it wasn’t the onscreen cyclists who had inspired my ruminations, but rather, the activities and actors associated with yet another of tehJobies’ (annual) pre-Dead Baby Downhill Drunken Slip-n-Slide Dance Party extravaganzas.

The idea of “outdoing oneself” is fascinating because it suggests that we have at least two selves, one of whom surpasses another; I might conjecture, however, that in this latest incarnation of the Thursday night ride that precedes the self-styled “Greatest Party Known to Humankind” that the neon mastermind behind things must have had many more than just a pair of identities in order to pull it all together and, even more impressively, convince others to play along.

Tom Sawyer, after all, only had to persuade a couple kids to paint a fence; tehJobies, by contrast, induced several score of (putative) adults to consume cocktails made with grain alcohol, strip down to their skivvies or bathing suits, adorn themselves with glowing plastic, and then proceed to not only hurl themselves downhill over a wet plastic tarp in the dark, but even more impressively, to climb into a kiddie pool filled with a gelatinous goo and wrestle one another to the cheers and catcalls of a rabid crowd.

I myself refrained from most of the shenanigans, believing that, when the cops showed up, it would be easier to explain things if I weren’t topless in a bathing suit, enjoying instead the efffervescent “Pink Elephants on Parade” visuals made possible by bikes and people wearing glowsticks; wonder of wonders, though, the authorities never did appear.

Perhaps next year, though, when selves are inevitably outdone once more.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Here’s the difference between 3:30AM and 9:30AM:

At that early hour, as you lay in bed staring at the ceiling, you can’t imagine how it will be humanly possible to get everything you need to get done in time for it to be done in time.

After you’d had your morning coffee, though, there’s really nothing to emptying the recycling bin and folding the clothes atop the washing machine; you’re finished up with plenty of room leftover for another cup of joe before your mid-morning nap, no problem.

All that worrying?  For naught.

And yet it seems so critical in the wee hours.

After more than half a century of such pre-dawn perturbations, I’ve found that, for me, the most effective way to put them to rest is to rise from bed, do some stomach exercises, read a bit, and once drowsy, climb back under the covers.  Often, however, I lie awake for some time before doing so, even though I’m aware that the intermission will be more effective in helping me return to sleep than simply staying where I am while my brain tries to kill me.

But that’s another difference between the and now: from the vantage point of daytime, it’s obvious that a 15 minute interlude from bed is worth it if it allows one to fall back asleep with relative alacrity.  In the middle of the night, by contrast, you can easily convince yourself that even if it takes hours to return to dreamland, that’s better than rising from the mattress.

No doubt there is some sort of evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon: our hunter-gatherer ancestors who were better at nighttime vigilance were more likely to pass down their DNA than those who slept soundly while mastodons and saber-toothed tigers prowled nearby.  I blame the cavemen, therefore, for any insomnia I might experience.

 Given that, it hardly seems worth worrying about.

Not now, anyway; it’s twelve o’ clock noon and all is well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


As it’s the last day of July, I’m starting to get nervous about summer ending. 

I’ve only swum in the lake twice and my quota of afternoon naps is far from being reached. 

I fear it’s time to put the brakes on time so I can savor my last few weeks of freedom before school starts.

Fortunately, I’ve figured out how to do that, though; it’s really quite simple.

You know how time drags when you’re bored out of your mind?  Like when you’re sitting in 10th grade math class and the teacher is reading problems from the book?  Or you’re at a half-day mandatory professional development meeting on the subject of earthquake safety?

The clock turns into something out of a Salvador Dali painting and the seconds seem to ooze by like Ol’ Man River performed by chilled molasses.  Everything slows down except for your patience and you begin to imagine you’ll be trapped there forever.

The good news is that by employing this same strategy, I’m able to make summer last longer.  Consequently, I’m doing everything I can to make sure I stay as bored as possible.

Instead of sitting on the couch reading pot-boiling page-turners, I’ve taken to just sitting there, staring vacantly into space.    And rather than availing myself of the many cultural charms our fair city has to offer, I make it a point to only go to the lamest, least interesting events out there, if I go at all.

I eat bland food, take the same bike rides over and over again, and watch infomercials on TV.

This has enabled me to make the 16 or so hours I’m awake every day seem double that.  And by combining this with sleepless nights staring that the ceiling worrying about the future, I’ve succeeded in having 24 hours seem more like a week.

And I’ve purposely mad this 327-word essay as ennui-producing as possible so you’ll be able to enjoy summer longer, too.

Friday, July 27, 2012


If I were riding down the Burke-Gilman trail (or Westlake Boulevard for that matter), and I came wheel to wheel with a line of forty or so cyclists carrying beer and other provisions pedaling to the beat of a throbbingly loud bicycle-mounted sound system who invited me to come with them for a swim in Lake Washington on what may have been the warmest evening of the year so far, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t turn around and follow without hesitation.

When I mentioned this to tehSchkott, he pointed out that there’s your difference right there: I’d U-turn for fun because I’m the sort of person who does that; all those spandexed teeth-gritting riders we tried unsuccessfully to entice didn’t because they’re not.

Of course, this is circular reasoning, but that doesn’t make the conclusion false even if the argument’s fallacious—which is, I think, a decent metaphor for the evening’s experience: it’s undeniably true that the water is fine, the beer refreshing, and the music festive, even if the manner in which those outcomes were derived is questionable.

The waxing quarter moon formed a perfect ear in the sky as if our planet’s satellite were listening in, making me suspect that Luna, too, would have turned her celestial chariot around to follow the music even if that sometimes meant pedaling dangerously close to the sounds of Katy Perry or yet another playing of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.”

Pasty torsos held a meeting in the water while less hardy souls mingled on land as dusk settled and Springsteen crooned; eventually the ride stumbled west to a patio near a different, but still connected body of water—which is, now that I think of it, another reasonably appropriate metaphor for the bike gang experience: the names and particulars are different but the flow is all one, so really, even if you don’t turn around, you’re still part of the same vastness whether you embrace it or not.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


You probably know the story of the “Princess and the Pea,” the fairytale about the king’s daughter who was so sensitive that she couldn’t sleep if there were a single pea placed under a stack of mattresses twenty feet high upon which she reclined.

You may also be aware that cycling great Eddy Merckx was constantly noodling with his handlebars and saddle and allegedly carried a wrench with him on rides so that he could continually tweak his stem and seat heights to exact perfection.

But what you may not have noticed is how particular you yourself are to minor changes in the set up of your bike(s).  This may be, in part, because we get used to whatever we ride, but if you want to test my claim, do like I did a few weeks ago and put a stem on your most-ridden rig that has 10 millimeters more reach on it than the one your currently run.

When I replaced the cockpit on my Saluki, I thought I’d try going from a 60mm reach to a 70mm.  Sometimes, I’ve found the steering a bit floppy and I thought if I were stretched out just a tiny bit more, the front might be that much more stable.  Plus, that 70mm was all that the distributor had in stock and I figured what the hell, I’d never even be able to notice such a tiny distinction, less than half an inch in real numbers.

But I’ll be damned if the bike didn’t feel all wrong with the longer stem reach.  I tried to convince myself that it didn’t really make a difference, that I was just imagining things; plus, the prospect of redoing the entire cockpit held me back, too.

After a couple of weeks, though, I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I put the 60mm back on and now I love the bike all over again.

Tonight, before bed, I’m checking under the mattress for peas.

Monday, July 23, 2012


It seemed to me that this year’s route for Seattle’s most diabolical guerilla time-trial bike race, the infamous Tour de Watertower, was easier, or at least more efficient than in years past, and I guess my time, which, at 3 hours 39 minutes and change was a good five whole minutes faster than my previous personal best is testament to that.

But this isn’t to say that race was a walk in the park, nor even a ride through one, although it did, as usual, lead us through some of Seattle’s loveliest neighborhoods to a few of its most spectacular views.

I was particularly taken, this time, by the panorama of our fair city afforded by the eastern slopes of Magnolia as one descended from the watery heights there and I savored the opportunity to ride across the Aurora Bridge in sunny broad daylight, too.

But I think my favorite part of the route was winding through Myrtle Edwards Park on my way to West Seattle for the final two climbs: the sky was smudged with blue and white so that the scene seemed more like a painting than a 3-dimensional reality.  As I pedaled through the park, I felt like an animated rendering or perhaps some minor character in a Wes Anderson film.

I’m proud to say that I didn’t have to walk up any hills, although I did carry my bike two blocks up some steps on Dravus that led to Magnolia’s watertower.  And unlike in previous races, I never really got any leg cramps, a result no doubt attributable not so much to fitness, but rather the relative coolness of the day and the generosity of folks at the checkpoints in refilling my water bottle.

According to my modified scoring methodology, whereby you take your age, subtract your final placing, and then the highest number wins, I came in, I think, second.

And even better, I took first place in the fendered bike class.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


There I am in San Francisco, one of the greatest cities in the world; I’ve gotten all my work done for the day and it’s only 9:00 at night.  You’d think I’d want to go out and tear it up, wouldn’t you?  You’d almost assume I have a responsibility to do so.

On the contrary, all I really had in me was a walk around the block and back home to bed with the Steinbeck book I’m reading.  Lame, I admit, but this is the person I’ve become, apparently.

I no longer have the appetite I once had for what lies outside my ears.  The idea of standing around in a bar or nightclub with a bunch of strangers sounds like less fun than curling up on the couch with my novel, even though the book I’m reading, In Dubious Battle, isn’t one of Steinbeck’s best.

Perhaps this is partially a reaction to the way I’ve spent the last few days, which has entailed a lot more schmoozing than I’m used to.  When I’ve had to be charming all day long with folks I hardly know, perhaps it’s not surprising that come evening, I’m ready to cocoon.

It certainly wasn’t always this way, though.  When I was younger I never wanted to be all by myself in the evening; even going to a movie in a town I was visiting seemed like a failure. 

It wasn’t so much a matter of meeting people as being around them.  Jen and I would go to New York, for instance, and only return to our hotel room to sleep and change clothes.

I still like feeling connected to the world at-large; I just am satisfied know that it’s going on out there without me.

One night, I did manage to hang out and watch a bit of a baseball game at my old haunt, The 500 Club; as soon as it was over, though, I finished my beer and left.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


When I replaced the cockpit on my Saluki a few weeks ago, I accidentally set up the brakes opposite the way I have them on all my other bikes.

Instead of the left lever controlling the front cantilever, I ran the cable so that my right hand controls the slowing of the forward wheel.

This is backwards to how most bikes in the U.S. are set up; apparently, though, it’s more common in England.

And, for what it’s worth, the late, great Sheldon Brown used to run his bikes with the front lever on the right, too.

It turns out I like it this way and not just because I’m reluctant to redo everything.  Since I usually rely more on the front brake to stop my bike than the rear, it make sense that my dominant, stronger hand should be in control; it seems to me that I get faster, more reliable slowing.

One downside is that with downtube shifters, my right hand naturally controls shifting the rear cassette, so if I want to change gears while braking, I’ve got to reach across with my left; not a big deal, but something to note.

Also, Sheldon counsels against having different set-ups on different bikes since, in an emergency stop, you might be apt, relying on your automatic responses rather than conscious intent, to apply the rear brake when you mean to slam on the front, thereby failing to stop quickly enough.  However, unlike Sheldon, I’m a two-brake panic-stopper; when I have to stop on a dime, I grab both levers, so I needn’t worry that I won’t slow down in time to keep from sliding under the pick-up truck or whatever.

The most compelling case for switching the levers back is that I mixed them up unintentionally; it’s kind of amateur to run set-ups that are accidental; on the other hand, now that I’ve ridden like this, I would have done it on purpose had I known.

Friday, July 13, 2012


This is how excited I was: on my way to catch up with this year’s Running of the Bulls ride, every time I saw a group of people wearing white tops, I slammed on my brakes, thinking that I had found the assembled masses, a tactic that probably only added ten or fifteen seconds to my route, seeing how fast I was pedaling to get there.

Arriving, then, at South Lake Union less than an hour en retard (quite a feat, if I do say so myself given that I started out for my destination 1500 miles and half a day away, in Santa Fe, NM), I was rewarded with the sight of more than four score cyclists in the customary garb along with a handful of people who weren’t actually bulls but were nevertheless dressed in manner that suggested male cattle, prompting me to immediately take the ceremonial plunge into the water, my first such foray into the drink on this year’s summer riding calendar.

Traditions happen almost by accident as like minds agree to reinvent an occasion occasionally; at the current rate of growth, sociologists in the future may be confounded as to whether Pamplona or Seattle came first.

Who’s copying whom?

Or is it, like the invention of the internal combustion engine, one of those developments that emerges concurrently around the globe, a hundredth monkey phenomenon, the human hive-mind giving rise to a spontaneous expression of our species’ collective unconsciousness?

Or maybe it was just the ideal summer evening, purple clouds filtering golden sunbeams over the park, white clothes stained burgundy through pink complementing the celestial hues perfectly.

Bottle rockets hardly needed launching to augment the festivities, but they were, of course, to the surprise of no one and the chagrin of just a few.

And then, the plastered pelaton was off again, red sashes trailing, and while minor crashes lay ahead, the noble tradition was once more secured, bull taken by its horns.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I realize the world depends upon people who do things.  And it’s obvious to me that happiness is essentially a by-product of setting goals and working towards them.  I also am aware of the fact that when I act like a slug I feel like a slug, and generally end up being disappointed with myself for failing to make more meaningful contributions to the world and all the people and animals in it.

That said, it’s nevertheless increasingly difficult to give a damn, especially as one realizes that really, it’s all just froth, and of course, just sound and fury signifying nothing as we caper about, strutting and preening on the world’s stage.

Besides, all this is just illusion: ephemeral, transitory, and impermanent; no matter what we do, it’s all going to be forgotten in a few generations at best, and even if it lasts longer than that, cosmology, geology, and even anthropology will scoff at our pretensions.

Perhaps this doesn’t matter; after all, all we’ve got is all we’ve got.  Just because the earth will be charred to a cinder in a couple billion years doesn’t mean that our few decades on the planet are meaningless, at least when observed from the vantage point of the lives we might potentially make a difference to.

And even if the human race has pretty much gone extinct in a couple hundred thousand years, that doesn’t make our individual lives pointless, although granted, it certainly puts the decision to attempt writing another book or developing a new class in a different context.

Imagine the greatest people who ever lived: your Jesuses, Gandhis, F. Scott Fitzgeralds.  Had they been as lackadaisical about accomplishment as I am, would the world be as rich and meaningful place as now?

Perhaps not, but who knows?  Maybe things would be better, although what “better” means in long-term is open to inquiry.

Or the world without me: exactly the same, except for these 327 words.

Friday, July 06, 2012


I’m not really sure I know how to vacation.  This may be, in part, because I live a life in which, arguably, one can never quite tell whether I’m already not out of the office, both literally and metaphorically.

Point taken.

But even given that, it’s unclear to me what being off entails.

I still do my daily yoga practice; in fact, I feel an even greater sense of urgency to do the full series since I’m not having to be somewhere soon after I’m done.

I can’t help but feel I ought to do at least a little writing on a regular basis, even if that amounts to little more than navel-gazing pieces like this.

And I never quite fully refrain from thinking about this which, as a philosopher, is pretty much my full time job anyway.

So, what does it mean to be on vacation, anyway?

I suppose sitting around the pool, which I’m planning on doing directly, counts strongly in favor of it.

And, presumably, cocktails with the family at sunset, which we engaged in last evening, is a marker, as well.

Traditionally, beer for breakfast, or, more pointedly, a pina colada before noon was a sure sign of being off.  Perhaps I can indulge in one or both of those before the day is out.

I’m reading a Stephen King book, The Tommyknockers, instead of the William Faulkner novel I brought along; I guess that counts, too.

And finally, instead of the standard 327-word essay, I’m cutting this one short at under 260.

Vacation, indeed!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Your job is simple enough: you just have to throw strikes and make the hitters put it in play.  Three outs and your team, now up by two runs, will win the hard-fought game in extra innings.

But you commit the unforgivable sin for the slow-pitch softball pitcher: walking the lead-off girl hitter.  Then, to make matters worse, you put the next hitter on base via the free pass, too.  Six pitches later, you’ve issued a base on balls to another girl, this one who you struck on out three pitches last time she was up, and who had no intention of swinging at all this time around.

The next hitter pops out and your team perks up a little, chattering encouragement behind you.  But the slow-motion train wreck inevitably unfolds: “walks will haunt” as they say, and the next batter smacks a bases-clearing double.

The winning run crosses the plate, the opposing team mobs her; you toss your glove at the fence, kick at the dirt, and go sit in the dugout with your hat pulled down over your head.

A couple members of your team come over to console you; they say things like, “Nice game; you kept us in it;” “Softball’s a team game; we all could have played better,” “Tough loss; we’ll get ‘em next time,” but you know (that they know) it’s all your fault.

You’re the goat, the loser, player who lost the game; it’s a fact, even if people pretend to deny it.

The pain is interesting enough; you get to experience the feeling that real athletes must feel when they blow the game; it makes you wonder how the Ralph Brancas and Bill Buckners of the world can live with themselves. 

Letting your teammates down hurts; you lie in bed that night reliving your failure and beating yourself up for being such a loser.

Next day, it’s a little easier; three days hence, you can even write about it.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, said Lao-Tzu.  A yoga practice of 46 (or so) poses begins with a single breath, say I.

You awake, slightly hungover from an evening on which you rode your bike around a foreign, but not entirely unfamiliar city, stopping here and there for a beer or two en route and so, you think, “Ah, what the hell; I’m in a hotel room, why not just sleep in and forget about it,” but your conscience gets the best of you and so you resolve to just get up, brush your teeth and at least stand and chant and then, once that’s happened, you resolve to do three sun salutations and the padmasana, but after a couple of surya namaskaras, you find yourself seguing into utthita trikonasana and soon enough, before you know it, the entire primary series is done with, which just goes to show that by far, the hardest part of any practice is right before you start.

Once you’ve begun something, you’ve already practically finished it. 

Your brain tries to kill you beforehand with all the reasons why you can’t do what you ought to do but if you can just manage to trick yourself by imagining that you’re not really going to carry things through you can, by degrees, surprise yourself with what you might be able to accomplish.

I first noticed this is seventh grade when I had to redo the social studies project that Charles Titterington stole from my locker.  I cried for a  couple hours at first, but when I eventually got started, it only took me about half that long to get it done.

I’m not exactly sure what the implications of this are in life generally, other than to note that things are sometimes easier done than said, a phenomenon, which, though counterintuitive, serves to explain why, when all is said and done, here I am, finished with this.

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.