Sunday, June 29, 2008

Scottish Motto of Life

Courtesy of Monarch of the Glen:

We enter this world naked, wet and cold ... and then things really get bad.

A Party of Rosian Proportions

BRose's Fourth of July party held on June 28th. Dig it. The theme (or one of them) was sausage. It was fun for the whole family. Unfortunately it was not so enjoyable for a neighbor lady across the alley. Oh well, you can't please all of the meth-heads all of the time.

Sylvia rated the party sparkleriffic!

We played one of my favorite games -- pass the baby. Here Meg, who is expecting her own little one in a few months, skillfully puts Willa to sleep. This left Daddy's hands free for beer.

Tom and JB doing time in the front yard. I see neither of these guys enough anymore.

As the evening wore on, Sylvia's sparkler technique got more sophisticated. But eventually all the sparklers were gone and the fireworks had all been exploded. A bit after 10pm I escorted the ladies home and returned to the festivities. A wave of folks hit and the yard was full when I returned.

A man and his meat -- BRose balances a tray of his and Julie's treasured homemade, hand-stuffed Polish sausage. It was delicious, as always.

The sausage was so good some folks, Hurl included, did not want to let it go even to fill a beer cup.

At some time in the night along came a car chassis outfitted with pedaling stations allowing a group of pedalers to cruise in style. Several parties were dispatched throughout the night. Adam, on the left, and I had an interesting discussion about the contraption. He referred to it as a kinesthetic sculpture. We both talked of how much more effective it could be with a few refinements.

It must be love -- Bill and Cat captured in a moment of rapturous expression. She said she felt safe and wasn't being harrassed. I had to take her word for it. Maybe Bill has hypnotic powers. Who knew?

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. That's why BRose is counting it from a chair in front of the mantle. With an impressive spread of food and kegs of Two Hearted and PBR I hope the Rose's took in enough cash to offset part of the affair. It was another great party.

Today was a beautiful, lazy day. In the mid afternoon we ambled to CRC Coffee and then to Painter Park so Sylvia could get some playtime.

Skiles came by on his brand new ride -- a green Cross-Check with matching King hubs, headset, Velocity rims and Salsa ano accents. Nice work!

Willa continues to grow -- quickly. She took in the sights and sounds and tolerated being called a boy many times over. She was dressed a little boyish in some of Sylvia's hand-me-downs including the "punk rock" onesie. People at the Rose's party were rather hung up on gender, too. Willa was wearing pink bottoms and a blue jacket -- that really confused a lot of folks. I had to state several times over that we were given most of our baby clothes second hand. We just dress our kids in them and don't really worry whether they are boy or girl specific. As soon as you have your mind made up what you want your kids to be they're just going to be themselves anyway.

Hell yeah.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Modern Marvel of the Interweb

Plate owner found! Sister Hannah (no, she's not a nun) left me a vmail today to say she saw her plate on the blog. I'm off the hook for delivering it by bike -- unless I want to ride to Iowa City. You know, if I had time I WOULD ride to Iowa City not just to prove a point (I can be pretty adamant about that sort of thing) but to get a few days away. I have been desiring a tour so much for the past few months, however it looks like the cards are not stacked favorably anytime soon for such investments of time.

Thanks, dear readers, for all the comments on and off the air over the past week. I count myself lucky to have a number of good friends and acquaintances who don't mind a little dissent sprinkled in their Wheaties. We're all better off for tempering our views through vitriolic heating and introspective cooling, y'know.

I've found myself a bit reclusive lately. Now, most folks might not even notice. It's just one of those things where I want to be alone on my commutes and not run into anyone I know; I want to sit by myself at the coffee shop -- that sort of thing. It's nothing against people, but I am an introvert. I never truly understood the implications of that until my dear April explained it. You see, I like people and I am pretty darned outgoing sometimes. But once upon a time a few years ago, when I seemed confused how I could be so social but always have thought myself introverted, April asked me a simple question: "Are your batteries charged by being with people or being alone?" The obvious, immediate answer was being alone. I can shut myself up in the bike shop for 5 or 6 hours on end focused on a project; I can sit at the keyboard immersed for hours on an essay; I can ride a solo century and never once miss conversation with another person (but rather wish I was about to camp and do it all over again the next day). Case closed.

But back on the topic of good discourse, even though I have not been in the mood for talking necessarily, circumstances have nudged me into a number of very pleasant and most unexpected conversations/encounters. The other evening at CRC I had a nice chat with LFOaB, Amy and Chloe. They're not from here either and we were enjoying immensely a discussion of the intricacies of "Minnesota Nice" behavior. That was a great talk, you all, and I am not just a bit unhappy that you are planning to leave Mpls soon.

Just yesterday I was at CRC again and happened to be sitting alone outside when Marlin from Shockspital rolled up on his Big Dummy. We said, "Hi." He got a drink, then came out to share a table and chat. I've been seeing Marlin around at the CRC, bike events and the like for the past 9 months or so. But we've never really had a conversation. On this occasion we talked bikes, shops and music a bit. I had never seen Shockspital World HQ across the street, so Marlin gave me the tour. Now, you can say what you like about that photo-swipin', shifty BRose, but he generally associates with quality folk. Marlin is no exception. You should meet the guy if you haven't (Marlin ... certainly not BRose).

You wanna know what one of the most encouraging things about this go-'round called 'life' is to me? Okay, maybe you don't, but too friggin' bad. It's stuff like what I just wrote above: it's the fact that there is always good stuff waiting in the wings -- cash on the sidewalk, a free beer at the bar, sunshine in a snowstorm, a smiling baby; good people ready to be met -- people you may think you know but have never really talked to; new things to experience -- places you think you've been but have never really seen. Me, personally, I wish (and always have) that I were more outgoing. Things work out for the most part, meaning I seem to forge bonds when the time is right. But you always have to stretch a bit, you have to put yourself out there. Put onesself out there ... what a thought.

The other beautiful thing that I have experienced over the past couple weeks: When I mention in casual conversation that we are moving in a couple of weeks so many people have said, "Let me know if you need some help." They might just be blowin' sunshine up my kilt (reference "MN Nice" above) but I have no doubt we'll easily assemble enough enthusiastic friends to get the job done. And the beer and food will help sway the less enthusiastic among them.

A couple of slight caveats: BRose is a stand-up dude. He and Julie (I suspect she does the REAL work) throw one hell of a bash every 4th of July. It's going down this Saturday and you should come. Yeah, that's actually June 28th, but you can get over it. I showed up smashed last year from a Surly growler ride and was still welcomed with open arms (mostly because I was hugging everyone). Second sidenote, I really do love Noren, even though my last post may have singled him out and seemed to rain down upon him with literary hell-fire. Go see his new blog. Shit, buy a frame from him. Here's the deal -- if you're bike savvy enough to know what you want/need he can build it for you. If you are still suckling at the bike breast and need someone else to sell you a cookie-cutter frame then perhaps sit on it a while. Do I own a Peacock Groove? No. Do I want to? Yes. Does April want me to? Never had that conversation, thank you. I have no stake in this, but I have a strong belief -- custom bike frame builders offer a service that is unparalleled and as more people take to bikes, that will be realized. Add to the simple pragmatics of consulting a frame builder the increased expense of shipping mass-marketed frames and whole bikes across the world and I believe the value offered by custom builders will be quickly realized in years to come. Food for thought, ye voices in the choir.

Sing a hymn for me,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


If this is your plate please leave a comment or email me. We supremely wish not to move anything which we do not have to and we'd also like not to trash anything that is not ours. If this plate looks appealing to you -- perhaps it could be part of a set or close enough to not matching an eclectic collection of dishes you have -- it could be yours. We believe it could have been left behind at the Flecktoberfest or some other unnameable gathering. Be the first to reply and I will hand deliver it anywhere in the Twin Cities area for FREE, sans car.

Wait, what am I saying? I'll pedal it to you? Oh, but so many have told me lately (after my recent posts) that cars are a necessity. Hey, we're all friends, but you're fucking WRONG! You may perceive that cars are a necessity considering how we've constructed our culture. However, shelter, food, water and shitting are human necessities (add sex -- all requirements courtesy of Maslow). Arguably, love is, too (but in the case of some friends whom have argued this point with me, I'd question love). (BTW I love you, Noren!) Seriously, thanks for the intense discussion. I never thought my own dislike of cars would get so many folks riled. Rile = thinking. Good for you'ns! You may not agree with me but yer brains are cogitatin'.

So, I feel some overwhelming need to explain myself. I do not hate cars; I hate mindlessness, i.e. laziness. People who drive without thinking deserve lobotamies. Many are getting them without knowing by continuing to drive and drive and drive. People who think they think while driving -- guess what? Many of them deserve lobotamies, too. Drive intentionally. When you shouldn't drive, don't drive. I get this. Do we even need to set a friggin' joke of a mileage radius??? Obviously many people I thought would get it don't. Suck your cars and drive your fears. We're all dying and you just might be lucky to be promoted as captain of the ship. Hooray! Where's my rum?

Bottom line: drive all you want til you can't pay no more for gas then ask why the fuck is gas so expensive and try to suck it up and drive some more and say shit no one is giving me a hand I can't claim my rite they should make gas less expensive or design a new car so I can realize adulthood by the way why can't I afford food anymore and why is Ebay so expensive and skiing in Aspen is out of the question and I'll say: get off your lazy ass and do something like propel from here to there under your own power and people will bitch and say I'm not fair/reasonable/accurate in my opinions and I will say fair/reasonable/accurate is not fair/reasonable/accurate what the fuck is fair/reasonable/accurate anyway except an arbitrary judge waving an arbitrary hand in arbitrary favor of favor be your own judge and wave your own hand and work your own body before it's too late hell yeah I think I met you somewhere I have to go because I realized a nuclear half life ago I ran out of patience sorry for all the invalids and shit I'm sure there will be hydrogen fuel cells to carry you to your enemas ding ding I'm on your left dumbass 'cause this is still America until the Japanese buy us thank you have a nice death I'll see you in Wormville wow did you really think you were entitled to heaven anyway you sorry sack of shitfood oh, apology yours -- it's not the America you were thinking of ... obvously.

Seriously, if'n that's yer plate, email me.

Love ya,


Monday, June 23, 2008

Friends Made Stupider by the Day

That Big Dummy, I tell ya, it starts conversations ... it gets people a-lookin' ... they wanna know "What is it?!" and "How does it ride?" It's not a bike for an anti-social type for sure. You're gonna have to talk to someone, somewhere, somehow eventually. (I ask myself sometimes why in the HELL do I own one?)

Our long lost friends Joel and Faith came over for dinner a couple weekends ago. Joel took the bike out first by himself. I told him how Sylvia has been riding on it and how April at 9 months pregnant had ridden on it. He just had to take Faith for a spin. He wants one. Of course he does. They're car-free types. The Dummy is a natural and unlike many utilitarian cars, the Dummy is just plain practical and FUN.

Rippin' it in the back alley aboard the Big Dummy.

Perhaps some people wonder why we don't entertain much anymore. We are very excited to be moving to a house, you see. This photo of our dining room and "second bedroom" beyond (a glorified sun porch that serves as our office) literally shows a full 1/3 of our current apartment's size. Add to this madness a couple of kids and all their accoutrements and there's not much space or sanity left to host friends. Sylvia is in her au naturale state, as per usual. (No comment, Johnny.)

Two Sundays ago (after our dinner with Faith and Joel) I went and saw Wrex's band, Bastard Saint. This is one of my favorite photos of the Wrexican in his element -- 7th St Entry, Downtown MPLS. He's one hell of a guy.

Do you ever look for truth or revelation in bathroom graffiti? I've always been fascinated by it ever since I was a kid. I remember when I was 7 yrs old on a winter road trip to Michigan with my mom and sister. I saw some graffiti in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant in Mackinac City that, like most bathroom graffiti, was just stupid. Then there was the occasional witty stuff like: "Here I sit broken-hearted, I came to shit but only farted." That's cute at least. In the City (MPLS) there is graffiti that will blow you away -- literary quotations, intelligent political arguments that stream 2 feet down the side of the stall, designs and art that were sketched by some skilled hand. This simple cursive messsage scrawled in marker caught my eye for its sheer burst of light amid a dark gray, piss-drenched concrete lavatory that looks to have been outfitted with leftover stainless steel prison fixtures.

Fast forward to last Wednesday (yep ... "fast forward" to the past). I embarked on the mythical Wednesday Night Ride. It was a certain Sov's last Wednesday living in town -- he done jumped ship to his home state of Iowa. Never mind they're mostly underwater, since his new house is on a hill. He was leaving and it was an excuse to do it up right.

We met at the usual place. Although it was my first ride a number of the usual suspects swore that I'd been on a WNR previously. I don't know if that's any credit to my notoriety or their lack of sobriety. The mosquitoes came out and then it got dark. Eventually we left and cruised on with an impromptu mission to cross every bridge along Minnehaha Parkway on the way to the Falls. By straight shot that's around 6 miles. Add bridges, and, well ... . Interesting things that were unplanned happened along the way.

Our group was at least a score strong; our route was mostly alleys and trails. We made beer stops and derbied. We rode across small ped bridges that were vigorously rocked side to side by our cohorts. A coaster race took us down one hill on the parkway. At Portland Ave, Gene O and others tried unsuccessfully to trials over the hollow bronze bunny sculpture. That was entertaining. It was like the Gong Show with carnage. My hat went off to Dave Lee for attempting to clean it on a single speed Cross-Check with drop bars. He's an animal.

A firm edict had been issued by Brauer Power -- "Find a bucket!" Bucket still unprocured, we derbied behind Adrian's Bar on Chicago and 48th. The path was clear from back door to front of the bar and the doors were wide open. We (our entire group) rode through to the amazement of patrons but the barkeep just smiled. We didn't get kicked out, but instead stayed and worked on pitchers. Meanwhile, Brauer scoured the alleys for a bucket and found one. At once we were all availed of his purpose -- Bucketball!

Zeigel framed by neon at Adrian's.

Two teams of three were drafted. The action went down in the liquor store parking lot across the street. A ref (Zitox) placed the bucket in the center and at "Go!" both teams charged to work the bucket toward the opposite "goal" using only wheels. A foot dab or crash means a player is out and must circle about to come back into play. Bar patrons on the patio were mesmerized. The game was very loud (as you can imagine bike wheels striking a 5-gallon pail might sound) and occasionally riders spilled into the street. I was amazed there was not more crashing. Another round was played and then another. Soon the law came and politely informed our sportsmen that they needed to stop.

More ale was quaffed, then our group rode out through the 'in' door and we were gone -- four whole blocks to a beautiful, empty hockey rink awaiting our mayhem. Here we had ample room to stage an all-comers bout of epic proportions -- 7 on 7 was it? It was sheer pandemonium for sure. We set about trying to remember who was on our teams while we circled, struck the bucket, locked handlebars with teammates and opponents alike and pretty much just bashed stuff up. The beer break brought much needed rest and the law again. Mr MPD was pretty damned friendly and we cooperatively said we'd move on. The best competition of the evening was yet to come.

Our crew of miscreants rolled through more alleys to the tennis courts along Minne Pkwy south of Lake Hiawatha. No houses nearby meant undisturbed frivolity. Bucketball ensued on the darkest court of the night. Eyes adjusted and we focused. I felt old soccer instincts awaken within me. Our team was smaller than the 7 on 7 madness and we were actually getting things done. We scored a couple of goals. So did the opponents. There were still no crashes, but unfortunately wheels do not hold up so well to such treatment. I mean we were whizzing around this tennis court, cutting tight arcs and just sensing one another -- braking quickly, trackstanding, sensing where folks were going. You'd yell for your teammate to clear the lane after dabbing a drive then charge for the bucket and know you were about to have a collision with your opponent. But at worst you'd lock bars or glance away. It was nothing short of ballet on bikes, plus or minus a generous helping of Grain Belt.

Here's Matt, resident legal counsel, with a freshly straightened front wheel courtesy of Nate and Sov. This photo kinda makes me hungry for potato chips.

After a fierce game of bucketball, one might find onesself mighty thirsty. What's the best way to get into a bar after last call? Well, know someone who knows the bar owner of course. Thanks, Gene O! Here we storm the Sunrise at 2:10am. They poured pitchers and made grilled ham and cheese, and let us park our bikes inside the bar. We were not nearly as bad off as some of the other folks camped out in the bar after hours, by the way (but they were family and it didn't matter).

From the Sunrise our group fractured a great deal. It ended up being Gene, Brauer, Sov, Grayboy and me headed down to the bottoms for a fire. I tailed Gene and noticed he took the route toward the stairs. We flew along a winding, tree-lined sidewalk. Luckily I knew roughly where we were headed because when he locked up his brakes to head left downhill I hit my brakes just in time to lightly pile into him, giggling the whole time. I'd lost the batteries in my front light from a curb crash earlier, so I was completely in the dark. These guys had ridden this route dozens of times and didn't need lights. Meandering down a dark path I knew would soon drop off to stairs (a lot of them -- I had climbed out of in the ice of winter while carrying my bike) meant I was on my guard. Gene rode the first flight. I carried and soon discovered the stairs were not much better without the ice and snowpack, many of them were eroded and smooth.

It was a great evening for a fire. We passed around the libations that remained between us while a couple of us intermittently plunged into the darkness for twigs and bark to stoke our smallish fire. Soon somebody called "Time!" (was it Sov and was it already 4am?) and we mounted up to ride out the easy way, thank goodness. Except the easy way meant the hard way along hiking paths in darkness that skirted the swollen creek so close that a wrong twitch meant certain bathing in the spring waters of Minnehaha Creek.

No one swam, but everyone except Grayboy (the smartest among us) had to attempt to crank a steep and rutted hill at the trailhead. We split off shortly afterward and I was alone. I pedaled along the Greenway. Some sections made me wish I had a larger gear. But mostly I spun out and believed I watched the western horizon lighten. Turning onto Garfield I heard the morning birds in full chorus. I wished I could fall over and sleep beneath a random tree, but I knew only a mile and a half kept me from home. I pedaled on as the horizon grew lighter and the birds got louder. Home at last, I stowed my bike and piled onto the couch at 4:50am thinking I'd greet the work day at 7:30am. Ha!

That evening a group of friends helped Sov load his stuff into a moving van. He bought pizza and beer for the crew. I was wishing he'd purchased some sleep for us. Tanner almost trashed Sov's file cabinet by riding it down the stairs (I pushed him). Afterward Tanner surfed my Dummy Snapdeck for a block.

So, we to return to the Dummy theme...

Sylvia and I have been doing a lot of this lately. She wants to ride. I don't push it -- she just wants to come along on the Dummy. She has become quite protective of it in fact -- she even calls the bike by its full name of 'Big Dummy' when she helps me carry it downstairs (with full enunciation of BIG Dummy). When we ride to a store, in true 3-yr-old fashion, she states, "You can't look at this!" if others ask questions. When I talk of other folks riding she says, "No." To my surprise she wanted ride to the grocery/beer store last weekend, 4 miles one-way. Mom and I made sure she was up to it. Sylvia and I talked the whole way and back. She had a sucker and even rode one-handed at times. She amazed me, as she so often does.

Ride. Take your kids. Ride and teach them now of alternatives to the internal-combustion engine. Yes, clean living. Suburbs, city -- who cares? The car is not your destiny. Really. C'mon ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Legacy of the Automobile

When I started driving gas was $.88/gallon. I was going to say it wasn't that long ago, but it has been nearly 20 years, I suppose. Driving was cool to me then. My hometown was a shitbox. My VW Bug and $5 was all I needed to get away for a while. The car was important because I could drive to school, too -- a whopping 3 miles away. Never mind that I had walked it occasionally. I trained for racing on my bike, but never once rode it to school. Dots weren't connecting, things didn't click. Besides, it was too important to be able to drive to school -- to claim that little bit of status -- even if my car was a leaky Bug with flaking sheets of rust for floorboards.

I don't imagine, nor do I want, the same options for my kids. Some say, and it was true for me, that learning to drive is a rite of passage. I cringe at that now. I am embarrassed in fact.

The newest car I ever owned was a 6-year-old Toyota 2WD pick-up in 1999. Hardly a status car, but I still believe I spent too long mortgaging my free-thinking human spirit for the sake of our collective car culture. I was helped along the way by my parents and other adult "role models" who said a car was a necessity. Their voices still ring through dark halls or occasionally carry on the wind as I'm bucking a 25mph head-on gale during my commute. I do what I do now in part because I believe it is the right thing to do, but it also doesn't hurt that I love riding a bike. Furthermore, I believe some of us have to model an alternative to the car culture paradigm.

But what about rites of passage or a legacy of automobiling for my kids?

Many orthodox religious rites included animal sacrifice. We don't so much condone that sort of thing anymore, but once upon a time some forebears of our world's major religions thought it was a pretty darn essential thing to do. Rites can be hard to question -- unless you're daring enough to host the Immoral Barbecue of the Sacred Cow in front of an angry mob of braindead zealots. That sounds like a pretty good time to me. I like grilling, especially if there are a couple dozen friends along and an ample supply of beer. We'll be having more fun than the mob, even if god is not on our side.

I plan to pass along the skill of driving to my kids because it's a good thing to know how to do. But as for rites of passage, as far as legacies, I'll stick to free will, leadership, intellect, self-confidence and self-reliance for starters. There might very well be a period where my kids will hate me for refusing to re-mortgage my soul for the sake of their passage to driving adulthood; but if I manage to authentically embody my ideals maybe they won't hate me, perhaps they'll follow me. The pragmatics of our country's denial-laden energy situation can only mean my daughters will have a different outlook ahead of them when it's time to snap the photos for their first drivers' licenses.

Two nights ago I was accosted on my ride home by a carload of what I'll very generously refer to as three young "ladies." I was treated to nearly a quarter mile of the constant horn in concert with yelling and shouted epithets directed toward me for merely riding my bike in the street. None of them looked a day older than 19-20. I guess driving is still cool for them; they're happy to have achieved a milestone toward adulthood. That's one way to look at it, if you believe maturity is granted by living beyond an arbitrary birthday and passing a simple test.

Perhaps with the decline of oil and entry into a post-petroleum era we will also experience a decline in belligerence and marginalization toward those who dare to be different and embody proactive foresight in how they choose to carry themselves through the world. Motorists should be patting cyclists on the back, stopping and hugging us. Transportation cyclists are reducing demand for their precious petrol lifeblood after all.

And perhaps there is still a chance for us all to become friends. Someone's gonna have to teach these blind fools that it is indeed possible to not only get along, but to thrive, to live and enjoy existence without the burden of a car. Thank you very much. Now you can show your gratitude by exercising another adult privilege -- buy me a beer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Drill, Drill, Drill!

So, couldn't we all hear the din of this spoiled toddler's tantrum growing -- the "Make gas prices go down now!" cry from the pathetic masses? Jim from HC blogged this a couple days ago: MN Rep. Congresswoman Michele Bachman is tickling the giblets of her conservative constituents, while still upholding her decided lack of original, intelligent thought, by stating the U.S. should open all available domestic sources of oil in order to "cut gas prices in half."

Here's a new story covering the Corporate-Puppet-in-Chief's request of Congress to lift the ban on U.S. offshore drilling. Where are the voices of reason? Thankfully, Barack Obama has stated that offshore drilling would not affect gas prices for 5 or more years down the road. Others agree -- and they're, like, actual experts and science types and stuff, too.

I've asked it before: WHO will be the first president to stand up and tell the American people the solution is to stop driving so damn much? Who will state that part of the solution is to pursue vigorously non-petrol-based energy alternatives? Who will have the chutzpah to tell Americans THE solution is a massive shift in our comfortably decadent lifestyles?



But for now it's a prescription to practice environmental rape and pillage of ANWR and our nation's coastlines. It would behoove certain politicians to heed the cry of the gas & energy guzzling masses, I suppose, particularly in an election year. They can at least build ire against anyone who is not of their party.

Here's a telling quote from NM Gov. Bill Richardson (former Clinton energy secretary):
"You know this president, all he wants to do is drill, drill, drill. There is very little on conservation, on fuel efficiency for vehicles. Just last week the Congress failed to pass a solar tax credit — give more incentives to renewable energy, solar and wind. A one track mind — drill drill drill — that's not going to work."

Meanwhile, what is the potential payoff? A supply of oil and gas that won't even last our gluttonous populace 3 years:
"The 574 million acres of federal coastal water that are off-limits are believed to hold nearly 18 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Interior Department. The country each year uses about 7.6 billion barrels of oil and 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas."

If we're willing to let our leaders make decisions like that we deserve to be in the dark -- literally and otherwise. It's a fool's bargain, one that, if it were allowed to go through, would beg the question, "Are the leaders or the constituents the actual fools?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Young Folks Biking For a Cause

A young lady named Liza Stoner embarked this week on a 1500-mile bike ride to D.C. Her mission -- to deliver a petition to Congress asking for tax benefits for manufacturers and purchasers of electric vehicles. Liza is riding all that way and she's only 14 years old. Check out the Ride for Renewal website for details and a blog (just what you needed -- another reason to get less work done).

I'm pretty jaded. I think people are damn lazy. I love most of my fellow humans; I try hard to love them all, but I think way too many people rely on motorized boxes to carry their overweight, out-of-shape flabby cakes from Point-A to Point-B. Often there is no good reason to travel from Points A to B in the first place. And far too often Points A and B are so freaking close in proximity that the aforementioned lazy-ass duffers could just walk, pedal or skip there.

However, the point here is options. I recently viewed the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" While it was mostly chock full of celebrity types going goo-goo and ga-ga over a "sexy, fast" electric coffin, the option of a quieter, emission-free car presents a refreshing idea. (It's still a car, mind you.) I do not intend to rip the scab off this topic. However, it cannot be denied that American car junkies have been presented no viable options to the internal combustion death trap. Whose fault is that? I'm picking at the edge. C'mon, leave it alone. Hold your tongue ...

Okay, I cannot resist one simple observation -- your average consumer will buy/ingest/drink the product/shitty media/Kool-Aid placed in front of them without much question or complaint, until their supply (or ability to consume) is compromised. Are these mental processes much different than those of cattle? No, and I'm not downing cows. I love cows because they are cool. Perhaps I simply hold humans to unrealistically high standards? But I digress ... . In a nutshell, I think people drive gasoline-powered cars because that's the only option that's been presented AND because we're lazy creatures of habit. Meaning: 1) No one wants to give up comfort, status and all that jazz, and 2) We won't go looking for options 'cause that's too much work. Wait for the government or some fancy corporation's PR firm to plunk an option in front of us. Then we'll start grazing.

That didn't hurt so bad, eh? I didn't lift too much of that crusty scab away. Let's just press it back down and get back on track. After all, this post is supposed to be about Liza and the other empassioned young people whose brains are still flexible enough to imagine possibilities, who are not so damned steeped in mind-numbing habit that they shy away from big problems and global challenges. These young people will create change, they will have to given the wonderful energy crisis that's looming. That's not to say some of us aging farts shouldn't be helping. We gotta get off our asses, too -- work our rigid, foggy brains. It can be difficult since we let stupid things like suburban living, RV vacations and memories of the 'Golden Age' of the automobile stand in the way. We need youthful energy and ideas to rock the stodgy halls where legislation is debated and to shift the foundations of society's conventional thought. Hell, do you think change is gonna come from the seat of a minivan parked in a McDonald's drive thru?!

Dig this from the 'About Us' tab of Liza's site:
Fellowship for Renewal, LLC supports youth led initiatives and young activists who aim to inspire a call to action by creating awareness and understanding of environmental and social injustices through extraordinary physical endeavors. These endeavors challenge and develop young peoples’ will, leadership skills, intellectual capacities, self-confidence, and belief in their potential to create change for their chosen cause.

Strong, declarative language directed by the assertion that "environmental and social injustices" DO exist. What a beautifully honest notion to introduce early on, backed by the affirmation that young people can and must accept the challenge to affect change. It's better than raising kids on a steady diet of junk food and entitlements. Injustices are everywhere, my friends. Perhaps some peeps are just a little too preoccupied with finding the cheapest gas in their areas to notice. Young people like Liza are precisely the folks I like to imagine will be catalyzing the sorely needed change in our fair land over the coming decades. Viva la youth spent in channeled, productive ways! Viva change! Viva laziness getting a swift kick in the ass!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yep ... It's For The Insurance

That title has nothing to do with my post but everything to do with a couple of conversations I've had lately with April. Health insurance -- talk amongst yourselves. If you're covered, great. If you're not (in many ways) count yourself lucky.

Anyway ...

On this eve of Father's Day we had a couple of significant happenings (not the least of which was me reminding an unaware April that tomorrow is Father's Day).

Following is an early morning rendition of me surfing both girls in my lap.

No, I don't get paid extra for logo placement. In fact, don't even ask the last time I washed that Surly shirt.

The most exciting thing I did today was get Sylvia out for her first ride on the Big Dummy. She was just ready -- nothing more to be said, it was the right time. She hopped on and we rode along with April and Willa strolling at first. Then Sylvia said we should go faster. She held on and dangled her legs and chatted the whole way. We rode to CRC and back -- 2.25 miles including turn-arounds to catch up with Mamma.

Later I rode to the beer store alone. Sylvia requested that I get her a sucker. I forgot. When I arrived home she asked me for her sucker. I stuttered and told her I'd forgot but that I could run out and get her a sucker right away. She sprang to her feet and said, "I want to ride with you." We rode a mile round trip to the corner store. Sylvia hopped on the Big Dummy like it was no big deal. We stopped and she climbed right off. She chose her flavor, I paid $.32 and we were on our way (she got two suckers upon my suggestion).

Later Mom went out to catch up with an old friend who's in town. Sylvia napped, woke up and wanted her toe nails painted. White, naturally, just like last weekend. She also requested that I paint my toe nails, the same color as her fingernails (which I also painted).

Not pictured are my fingernails, which are purple, also per Sylvia's request. I have lots of practice at this. Don't ask unless you really want to know.

After Momma got home I told Sylvia she is lucky to have one of maybe 3-5% of dads who would paint their nails with their daughters. Perhaps that's a spurious statistic. Who knows? Will any proud, kilt-wearing, nail-painting dads really admit it? It doesn't matter. I had a great evening with my daughter.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

All Dressed Up Like Nebraska

Johnny Nebraska, that is. He done did the deed and got hitched. I'm happy for him because he's found a great partner and friend in his new bride Carrie. Congratulations to you both!

Now there's nothing like backstage passes to a wedding, meaning actually being part of the wedding party. That usually provides a greater insight into the big day, not to mention plenty of free beer and food. Since we have no family in Mpls you'd think we'd be mere guests at our friends' nuptials. However, we have a secret weapon in the form of a cuter-than-hell daughter who is an excellent candidate for the all important role of Flower Girl.

Never mind that we know Sylvia freezes up in front of crowds, throws fits when you least want her to and otherwise doesn't follow directions when it's go-time and all eyes are watching. She's cute and that's what matters. Sylvia had her second gig as flower girl at Johnny and Carrie's wedding. It went okay. I'm thinking another year and she will be a pro. Then I can start placing Craig's List ads and using her talents to not only fill my beer mug but perhaps finance a bike project or two on the side.

The festivities began Saturday with a trip to the mall! Yep, to the mall. We all needed a few things -- Sylvia, flower girl shoes, and me, a new shirt (suitable to wear with a tie). While in the middle of Macy's we had our first honest-to-goodness kid meltdown in a store. Sylvia's circuits were fried. Calm containment was not working. I scooped her up and carted her screaming little personage outside for a session (read: she ran in circles around the sidewalk screaming gibberish before calming down and saying politely, "I'm okay now, Daddy. I want to go back in the store"). It was actually kind of fun that it happened in Macy's -- right between the men's department and cosmetics, past the guy who kept trying to get me to putt for a prize and the woman attempting to stink me up with free Polo fragrance samples. All things considered, we were lucky to get out of there alive.

Later we cruised to Johnny and Carrie's for the rehearsal -- a not-so-dry run of the ceremony in the backyard accompanied by tall boys of Old Style. Then we had a big group dinner at Buca in St Paul. Good food, fun times and plenty of folks to distract Sylvia and hold Willa. Willa slept in her seat for most of the dinner. It made me miss the early days with Sylvia when we'd go to parties confident that she'd go down early in the night and sleep until we were ready to leave. Ha! Those were the Salad Years for sure.

Carrie and Johnny at Buca. Statement: "You know, we could just skip all this sh-t and run away ..." Reply: "I think you need a little more wine." It was a great dinner and after hanging out with the families and friends I knew it would be a very fun wedding.

We had a family walk to CRC Sunday morning and ran into the lovely Alix and partner Holly. Later we saw an old acquaintance Bruce (whose printing company actually gifted us our wedding invitations and announcements). We had a good chat about politics and South Mpls, gave him the news we're moving out of the 'hood. Walking around and seeing friends is a big reason we'll miss our neighborhood.

Willa in her snuggly cocoon.

By the end of all this impromptu socializing it was time to get home and prep for the wedding. My favorite task was painting Sylvia's toenails for her. She requested white and Daddy delivered. As we so often do these days, we rushed out the door to make it to the wedding just in time to cool off and get our bearings. Sylvia seemed a bit shy and nervous with all the strangers around. Would she rise to the momentous task of flower toting?

Well, she did -- with a little help from Momma Fleck. Meanwhile Willa studies the situation and charms guests with her toothless smile.

BRose and Julie chat in the crowd. I later commented to BRose that it's nice to see they genuinely seem to enjoy each other's conversation. He said it only appears that way in public.

No turning back. And besides, you can't return the dress now.

There were a variety of fine beverages hosted by the happy couple, including 40oz varieties of Mickey's, Schlitz and High Life. This was not your average wedding.

Of course, with those sorts of beverages on hand, quirky shots like this were bound to be staged. It reminds me of the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Actually this brought back memories of another wedding Trevor and I closed down together last summer, hanging with the father of the bride before absconding a bottle of bubbly and hitting the Greenway toward home.

BRose passes on a wedding tradition. One half of a $20 bill for Carrie and one half for John. I think it was supposed to be seed money for bail. I don't think I was listening very clearly, however.

Like I said earlier, this was not your typical wedding.

I neglected to mention the venue -- Town Talk Diner at Lake and Minnehaha. A nice place and our first time there. Noren was an honored guest. His face and twinkling lights seem to go well together, dontcha think?

The feast commences. Statement: "Holy sh-t ... we actually DID this?" Reply: "I think you need a little more wine."

Sylvia gets a twirl from the bride. She also got a cool "Geyser Blast Water Sprinkler" yard toy out of the deal.

The Flecks. This is actually one of the best family photos we have to date. I think we all clean up rather nicely. I had a hard time with Willa's headband though. I kept thinking we were dooming her to some predestined tragedy as a tennis star by making her wear it.

Trevor, Mikaela and Sylvia. Sylvia is the one with the zombie eyes. (It was already past her bedtime.) Mom and the kids went home and I stayed around for a while. Okay, I did what I usually do at parties -- I stayed until the end. I mean, your friends only get married once, right?

Johnny's sister Ruth, Nick and Mikaela are subjected to some of Tanner's mischief. Luckily Sunday night last call is midnight, since most of us had to work the next day. Lack of enthusiasm for the dance party marked the beginning of the end. Then the wedding party drained the bar of PBR. It was time to go. I left with Tanner and his friend Tory, lipstick on my cheeks and a souvenir Town Talk koozie.

The Monday morning commute was tough. Johnny (now on his honeymoon) sent an unexpected email to Trevor and me: "How was your ride in this morning?" was all it asked. I replied his next wedding better be on a Saturday.

In all seriousness, much love and happiness to you both, and thanks for a great time at the Town Talk!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It Might Be Catching On

Logic prevailing?

Hopefully I don't get a Cease and Desist for this post. Look -- the copyright is still there.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Maybe We're Not As Cool As Portland

(Things have been busy lately. Here's a post I meant to put up, oh, last week sometime ...)

Maybe they are just that much better than us. But we have had a lot of very Portlandesque weather lately. Rain yesterday, rain today. Tomorrow? Rain. Last weekend? Rain. This coming weekend? Hey, looks like rain. Check out the window right now -- hey, it's raining! And raining hard.

Take THIS Portland. Here's a little quote: “I’ve been really upset by what I perceive to be Portland’s blind spot in its progressivism,” said Khaela Maricich, a local artist and musician. “They think they live in the best city in the country, but it’s all about saving the environment and things like that. It’s not really about social issues. It’s upper-middle-class progressivism, really.” (In all fairness, I think you could sub Mpls for Portland and wind up with an apt observation about many neighborhoods in our fair burg.) I stumbled across the quote and story above on a fun little blahg called Stuff White People Like. Check it out if yer not afraid to laugh at yerself.

Spring has been a bit slow this year. We're finally getting our April showers in June. Back in Tennessee I never thought about mounting fenders on a bike. Up here most of the bikes in my stable have fenders and I have a couple varieties of clip-ons as well for those that don't.

Recently, I wanted to give my Cross-Check fixed gear a shiny new drive train. The nice, rather old school, Sugino crank on it has been through three bikes -- that's after I bought it used. Those other two bikes were my winter bikes. Who thinks about chainrings until you need to change them?

I cranked on those bolts. I modified a chainring spanner in attempts to make it seat better in the nut. I tried three days of soaking in WD-40. Finally, I drilled them out at work. What a fun project. Worn out ring removed, I was able to install my new stainless steel ring. It's purdy.

Sylvia was very eager to help me reinstall the crank. She's getting handy with the hex wrenches.

I was watching both girls, so I tried to get Willa into the action, too. She kept yanking the rear wheel out when I'd try to center and tighten it. Shiny, spinny things are pretty darn fascinating to an infant.

Later in the week I had planned an urban overnight camping trip. That day I found out Wrex was playing a show at the 7th St Entry. Only Seth had signed on for the camping trip, so we re-routed downtown for some face melting rock action. Wrex's band was awesome. The headliners sucked.

Jim stopped off for a beer with us on our way into town. We were actually having a good time, but this photo makes it look as if we had just had an argument or something. Maybe it was just time for another beer.

Seth at the Entry contemplating the various levels of suckitude the headlining band was exhibiting. We both agreed their calling was to become an Alice in Chains cover band. Unfortunately, they missed their calling.

Can you count the people in the crowd? You won't need more than one hand because there weren't any after the good bands left the stage. We went downstairs with Wrex's band and talked about how bad the guys on stage were.

I don't often get to go out and catch a show. It's certainly fun every once in a while, even if the band is less than inspiring. Still, it wasn't a bad use of $5. After the Entry I cruised to Nordeast with some other friends -- Rollin and another fellow, John. We went to Stasiu's -- home of the classiest art deco urinals I have ever seen. Cruising home at 2:30 in the morn was nice. I always say that, don't I? But seriously riding in the city at night is incredibly peaceful, a sharp contrast to the craziness of the day. Cool air, city lights, the humming sound of tires on pavement, memories of a good night with friends ... oh, yeah.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays

Saturday did not start out rainy. It was a beautiful day. The sellers of our new house, Kathy and Brent, had invited us over for a little tour to show us some things they'd leave if we wanted and some things they'd sell to us cheap if we were interested. It was a nice gesture for sure. They've lived in the house for 14 years and done a lot of work to it, so I think they have a vested interest in making sure they're leaving it in good hands.

We loaded up the family in trailer and bike seat. I was quite pleased to learn the Burley hitches to the Big Dummy with no needed modifications. That is one smooth ride -- long bike and trailer.

The Dummy rig parked at Cedar Lake and Penn, the crossroads of our new neighborhood in Bryn Mawr. April and Sylvia dashed into the market for a snack. Previously we have enjoyed a stop across the street at Cuppa Java, which serves beer in addition to caffeine. Very nice.

Our new place on Irving Ave. Built in 1911, it's not exactly new, but it is a beautiful house and certainly new to us. The exterior is cute, but the interior is gorgeous. I guess you'll have to wait for an invitation to the house warming. It still seems like a weird dream that we will be moving into our new house. But the mortgage papers are greenlighted and we've already put our signatures in spots that cannot be blotted out. I guess it's really happening.

Later the girls went their own way and I headed to Manderson's for some grill action. En route I stopped for firewood and beer. While loading the wood at the local ACE hardware I heard tornado sirens going off. I looked up and saw thick clouds to the north, but it looked clear enough to make a run for it. I steered south to pick up beverages. At So. Lyndale Liquors the girl at the checkout said there were funnel clouds sighted in Maple Grove. I was going east so I didn't worry too much about it.

On Minnehaha Parkway things suddenly changed. The first pellets of hail hit me as I was nearing the Nicollet Ave bridge. I parked beneath to watch the weather show. A couple of cyclists rolled in and looked confused. I was having a blast photographing the hail and dumping rain. Plus I had plenty of beer and extra clothes on board. So what if I had to stay for a while?! I was also getting a kick out of the motorists who pulled up under the bridge en masse to protect their precious investments from sustaining hail damage.

Winter revisited? No, just spring in its triumphant glory.

Water had pooled several inches deep on the parkway. It's good for washing out the fenders on the bike.

The party must go on. In between waves of showers, Mark, Manderson and I tended the fire and drank beer. Isn't cycling rainwear funny? Almost as funny as the chumps wearing it.

Manderson fired up his swanky new gas grill. It came complete with a warming burner -- the perfect place to park an All-Clad saute pan, eh?

Wrex joined us later. Here he enjoys some salmon, chicken and rice. Across the alley, Matt's neighbors were busy recreating in their screened garage complete with ping pong table and dart board. It was impressive but I don't think they were having any more fun than we were.

The night wore on. Have you ever seen the Surly sticker that reads: "Wake up and wonder where you are"? I did briefly at 5:30, but discovered it was just Manderson's comfy couch. Time to load up and pedal home. 6am Sunday morning on the Minnehaha Greenway is a peaceful time.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I did break out the new Traveler's Check frame and apply framesaver. I'll embark on the project of building that up later this week. Of all the things we have to move I am least looking forward to packing up and moving the bike shop. But it's all in the name of progress I s'pose.

Other than that, I found another dollar on the pavement riding home from CRC today. Could you loose-pocketed folk drop a $50 or $100 -- is that too much to ask?